Autumn feed budgeting webinar

Cathy Bunter, District Veterinary Officer presents on feed budgeting around the autumn break ensuring the animals needs are met without affecting pasture persistence.

Tess McDougal:

'Welcome, everyone, to tonight's webinar about Autumn feed budgeting. My name is Tess McDougal. I'm a Livestock Industry Development Officer from Agriculture Victoria based at Ararat. Tonight's webinar is proudly supported by the Victorian Government 2019-2020 Drought Support Package. Our presenter, Cathy Bunter, will be using a PowerPoint presentation during tonight's webinar. Everyone has been sent an email with a PDF copy of that presentation. If you are joining us tonight using your phone, not using the online webinar platform, you'll need that in order to follow the presentation. The presenter will let you know what slide number we are on. For those using webinar platforms, the presentation will appear in your browser. After the presentation, we would be grateful if you could complete a short survey so as to ensure we are providing you with the right information. After the seminar, you will be sent a link to the survey and we suggest that you complete that tonight immediately after the seminar or tomorrow morning while the event is still fresh in your mind.'

Tess McDougal:

'This seminar is hosted and managed tonight by Redback Conferencing. Our Redback operator tonight is Sarah Grace, she is here to ensure that the seminar runs smoothly. There will be an opportunity for questions after the presentation, this will be managed for us y our operator Daniel. If you are participating tonight on the webinar platform, you can type your question anytime under the questions tab on the screen. If you are joining us on the phone, then we'll provide instructions about how to get your questions in the queue later.'

Tess McDougal:

'The agenda for tonight's seminar is as follows: Dr. Cathy Bunter will present a step by step approach to feed budgeting with a particular focus on the value of seed that is on hand after some autumn rain. Dr. Bunter is an experienced mixed practice veterinarian and has worked in private practices across Australia for 28 years. She has also lectured on animal nutrition, health and production at Longerenog College before joining Agriculture Victoria as a veterinary officer two years ago.'

Tess McDougal:

'I would like to thank Cathy for her involvement tonight. I will now hand over to Cathy to continue the presentation. So over to you Cathy.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Thank you Tess. And thank you for having me here tonight to just try and wade through some of the bigger things about autumn pasture feed budgeting that we need to know. Certainly this is not a master class in teaching you how to put together a feed budget but really this can teach you some of the basics to make you much more confident in actually attempting to do a feed budget for yourself because I know that there are a lot of people out there that are really great at doing these and then there are a lot of people that are really really reluctant to do so because they're just a little bit apprehensive to take the sort of steps. The pure aim of this autumn pasture feed budgeting webinar is to try and get you certainly more confident in the basics.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So we'll go onto slide two. Why do we need to do an autumn feed budget in particular? Well obviously the bigger picture approach with any sort of feed budgeting we're doing is we're using a lot of the science and precision that we've made to develop over the years to actually help you with the whole farm approach to what you're doing. It's actually really really important in autumn because the type of seeds, in terms of both the quality and the amount, is actually changing your paddocks and that can mean anything from having only some short grain seeds, for example here in southwest Victoria. But I know that over in Gibson, we certainly have farmers over there that are still continuing to struggle with ongoing droughts. So it's really getting our heads around how much have we got available in terms of nutrition and how much do we need to actually get into our animals.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'And certainly, the other thing that's really important in Autumn is a lot of our animal requirements are changing. So we have a lot of animals, for example, pregnant ewes or pregnant cows and they've started with a certain amount of requirements in terms of nutrition at the beginning of their pregnancy but that certainly increases as they go through their pregnancies, throughout autumn into winter. And we're looking a little bit at that as well so considering both the change in the actual food quality and the change in our animals requirements.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go to slide 3. Okay so, the benefits for you are that you can make use of the Autumn growth in your paddocks in a smart way without actually ruining the paddocks that that pasture is growing in or damaging to such a point that we're actually compromising the plant and soil health that's in those paddocks.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Then we have the other extreme where there is little to no Autumn growth at all and really knowing exactly how much supplementary feed we need to give to our lot because it probably is more important because even more important to preserve the plant growth that is there and the soil health and stop that from being degraded, that's for sure, by animals wandering around in paddocks that are bare.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'The whole idea of this is to feed animals efficiently. It's not about feeding animals a lot, it's actually about feeding them smart because unless you feed them efficiently, not only are they healthier, but you actually get a better end product at the end of the day and when all is said and done, it actually makes your animals much more profitable. And you know, we are in this business because we are animal farmers, crop farmers, but at the end of the day we still need to look at it as being a profitable business and we need to look after all the ingredients in that business.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Move down to slide three. I'm sorry, slide four. Obviously there's a lot of variants in what's in your paddocks, especially at this time of the year. This is obviously a very much a season of change, autumn is. And not only what's in our paddocks varies in season, it obviously varies with the species of plants or pastures that are in our paddocks, can vary across paddocks even on the same property where there are even different soil types on the one property, and it really depends on what's gone onto those pastures beforehand too, in terms of treatments and applications.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now I'm not going to talk in great depth about grazing management as such, because Fiona will cover that in a great webinar she's actually delivering next week, but needless to say that's why there was so much variation in the value of feed. And in terms of value, we're not looking just at feed in terms of quality, we're looking at the quantity of feed available too, so both those things are really, really important to look at.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go to slide five. Again ... in terms of actual, the value of feed, determining feed quantity that's actually available in your paddocks is actually a really, really great skill to have. There are some really great ways to actually work out how much available feed you've got in your paddocks, in terms of quantity. There are great photo libraries online, so for example, AWI has a great photo library where you can put all you details and you can actually compare your paddocks with other photos of paddocks that are online, and you can get an equivalent paddock and get as close to an estimation of what's in your paddocks in terms of quantity as you can.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Another really great way of assessing how much quantity is actually in your paddocks, [inaudible 00:08:22] pasture, and the MOA, and most of you would have seen these pasture rulers, they are really excellent way of going out into your paddocks and simply measuring how much pasture you've got, you've got all sorts of measurements, and you can read the comments on the ruler too, it says yes this would be a problem if you were going to feed stock at this height, because there's not enough available nutrition there, but not only that it's going to damage your plants and damage your soil. It's actually really, really easy way of measuring quantities in terms of kilograms of dry matter per hectare, in your paddock. Anyone can go out and put this in a paddock.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Again, it's really really important to get a good ... a number of good areas to sample. Don't just go into the lush areas of your paddock and ignore the other areas of your paddock, you really need to get a good average across the paddock, but that pasture ruler is a really great tool to use. There are all sorts of other plot instruments that you can actually do, you can do plot measurements where you map out a quadrant and you can cut and weigh the grass from that quadrant, and you can actually work out the equations to actually work out how many kilograms of dry matter per hectare are actually in your paddocks.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Again, I'm not going to go into this in any great detail, because Fiona will cover it more in next weeks webinar. But yeah, the other way that you can obviously work out how much in terms of kilograms of dry matter per hectare in your paddock, is you can actually take average height measurements, subtract a residue, and normally we say look a residual of about four centimeters, so you've still got a decent cover over your paddock, and you're actually protecting the plants and the soil that's actually there.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So again, feed quantity, very, very important. We'll go onto slide six. Feed quality, okay, so again, feed quality, with all the developments we've got in assessing feed quality over the years, there's really no excuse to make really great use of the tools and that we've got, because measuring quality by simply looking at it in the paddock, very, very inaccurate. In fact, probably about 85 to 90% of people actually get it wrong. So really, the only accurate measure of testing the quality of the feed that's in your paddocks is actually to have a feed test performed.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'They're actually very, very simple to do. They're actually relatively cheap, pasture feed test runs out at about $60 to $80 at the most, and when you consider the amount of money that's tied up in that feed in that paddock, and also the amount of money that your animals worth, that's actually really, really cheap. There are a number of companies that offer feed tests, so you have great access to using them. Most important thing when doing probably a pasture feed test in a paddock, is to follow the instructions, and in general if you use a particular company, they will actually give you the instructions, so that when you actually send a sample into them, it's actually reflective of the whole paddock, and not just reflective of a really rich part of the paddock that you actually wanted to sample.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So follow the instructions that they give you. So for example, they may say "We want 15 mixed samples from that paddock at 15 step intervals". So follow those instructions as well as you can. Really important for you to get them to the feed testing lab as soon as you can, because with time, the amount of energy and the protein and the amount of moisture in those paddock samples will actually decrease. So if you're a long way away from a feed testing laboratory and it's going to take a while for that to get there, or you're caught up over a weekend, it may actually be worth either waiting until the beginning of the week to do the testing, or in the interim, put them in the fridge, or put them in the freezer and try and freeze them in as close as possible state to the way they were picked out of the paddock.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'I know a lot of people don't do feed tests, a lot of the companies will actually offer online, even ... readouts of their seasonal averages for all sorts of different pastures, and hays and grains, and so look, if you're not keen on actually doing your own feed test, which as I said, it's really the only way to have them done accurately, then by all means look at the feed test seasonal averages that are actually being supplied by these companies too.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide seven. So when you're reading the feed tests, I know that sometimes there's a lot of confusion as to what some of the measurements are. And typically you'll get a feed report that looks a little bit like this down in the corner, probably the most important thing is don't get caught up in all the terms. I would certainly concentrate on the more important results, so to me, you as animal farmers, the more important results for you are the metabolizable energy, the crude protein, the digestibility, and to a lesser degree, the moisture content or the dry matter content. And obviously these two are opposites of one another, and will add up to 100%.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Most feed test companies will actually give you also a description that goes with the results, or comes with the results, and it will describe what these things are actually measuring. And certainty they try and make it as easy as possible, for you to understand the results. But if you ever are confused by feed test results, then it's always worth ringing the company and talking to them because they will go out of their way to help you understand the results.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide eight. So animal requirements. So the most important requirement in an animals diet is definitely energy. It is the most limiting component, and you must get the energy levels right. And I like to say to people it's a bit like a car without petrol, if you don't have petrol in your car, it's going to just sit in the paddock. It can't go anywhere, and without energy, animals cannot do anything. So in terms of how it's expressed, normally we express it as metabolizable energy. Because metabolizable energy is the energy that is directly used by the animal, and it's used by the animal in their normal body functions, like breathing, their heart beating, their brain working, but also in production of things like meat, wool, milk, youngsters, so lambs, calves, so it does both those ... it fuels both those purposes of both maintenance and production.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'In most animals diets, it's actually generally provided by either ... well mainly by carbohydrates, with some fats too. Ruminants are actually very lucky, the actual microbes in their guts can actually convert any excess ammonia to be used as energy as well. So they're very fortunate in terms of that.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We're down to slide nine. Okay, so second most important requirement in the animals diet, is protein. So if the energy is the petrol in your car, then the protein is all your car parts. So really, you need protein in the animals diets to actually produce things, to actually form the structure of things, and in some cases protein is actually a really, really important thing for enzymes and that too. But for our purposes, easiest way to look at it is, really important in things that are growing. So animals that are growing themselves, animals that are growing other animals like lambs and calves where they're growing things too, like milk and wool.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'The protein actually provides a structural framework in all those things. Now ruminants are actually really, really lucky. They have no essential protein, again the gut microbes are very, very clever. They can break down all sorts of other proteins into the amino acid chain, and actually form any protein that a ruminant needs. However, that protein still has to be provided or some sort of protein still has to be provided in the animal diet. They cannot grow and produce product without that protein. So where excess protein, as we just said on the last slide ... excess protein can actually be used as a source of energy, we can't use carbohydrates and fats as a source of protein. So protein is still really, really important in an animals diet.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 10. Digestibility. I often use this slide from lifetime wool in my presentations, because it's a great way of actually illustrating what digestibility means. So really, digestibility is the amount of the feed that is actually available directly for the animal to use in their bodies. The other part of it is the part that actually gets passed out as feces. So for example, beautiful lamb in the picture, 80% digestible feed, he's taken in a kilo of dry matter, he's actually been able to use .8 kilos of food in his body, for varying body processes and growth, and he's only passed .2 kilos out as food.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So really, you aim for digestibility certainly greater than 60%, because you don't want a large amount of your food just to be passed out the other end as feces without having any way of that actually providing anything for the animals body, or even growing anything. So really important to aim for a digestibility more than 60%.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 11. Moisture content. Moisture content, dry matter content, again pretty important. It varies very much from only about 10% almost in grains to over 80% in fresh pasture. Now it's important to understand this concept, but unless your animals are lacking in drinking water, you don't want feed that's really, really high in moisture content. Because it's basically no nutritional value, other than the water, in the moisture content in these feeds. It doesn't contain any energy, it doesn't contain any protein, so you really aiming for a moderate moisture content, that's for sure.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Obviously there's only so much control you have over that in pasture, but certainly for other feeds that you may be feeding your animals, certainly look at the moisture content because it can have an impact on how much food they can actually get through their system in a day.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, so we'll go to the sheep requirements. Now the reason I've chosen this particular table of sheep requirements is because it's a very, very simple one. It actually came out quite a few years ago, it's a very simple table of requirements, and it lists, for our sheep friends, exactly in terms of their livestock classes, and in terms of their weights, how much metabolizable energy and how much protein they need for a day. Now, again, this is actually only a very basic table. There are much more advanced sheep tables than this one, but I find this one really useful, especially when people are having trouble understanding the importance of energy and protein. It just puts it right there, really easy to read, really easy to go back too and refer to. As I said, there are certainly a lot more advanced tables than this one on the market, but it's a really great tool to start with.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 13. So again, this is an example of one of the cattle tables, incidentally this is one of the [inaudible 00:21:23] cattle tables. This is a lot more advanced, as you'll see from the last sheep table, it will break it down more into live weight, it'll break it down into how much you want your animals to grow per day, it actually puts how much they can actually have of their maximum dry matter intake for animals for the day, so this is per percentage of their live weight. It even goes to the effort of actually telling us exactly how much that is in kilos. Tells you again, like the last table, metabolizable energy and tells you crude protein in the end table, and again, it's a little bit more advanced than the last table. It will actually tell you the minimum amount of metabolizable energy it can have in a diet or in a food that'll actually meet those requirements. So a little bit more advanced.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto the next table, which is, again it's a cattle one, but it's the cattle one for cows that are actually feeding suckling calves. Again, a lot more detail than the sheep table that I showed you initially, but I think the most important thing that both this table, and I'll just go back to slide 12, just temporarily. The most important thing that both these lots of tables will tell you, as I was saying before that the two really ... the two bits of animals with the highest both energy and protein requirement in our ruminant world are certainly young growing animals, but also pregnant or lactating animals. And you'll see that for example the pregnant or lactating ewe much higher requirements in terms of energy and protein than a dry sheep at maintenance, because she is not only trying to grow something inside her, but she's actually then at the other end, she's got to produce milk for it too, and the same if we go back to slide 14.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Same with the crow, she's not only maintaining her body, but she's having to put a lot of energy out of her body in terms of both initially, producing a calf, but also then feeding it at the other end. So much higher requirement. And when we're feeding animals, these tables certainly illustrate how important it is too hone down your feed budget to actually reflect the group of animals that you're feeding. Because what may actually feed a dry sheep is certainly not going to feed a ewe that's got a lamb growing inside, or a ewe that's trying to feed a lamb, even more so a ewe that's trying to feed twins or triplets.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go to slide 15. Now for the purposes of what I'm going to illustrate to you tonight, I've used this table, which again is just an example table of the sorts of ranges of both energy and protein that we find in different sorts of feeds. In this particular table, it gives you the range, and then it gives you the average metabolizable energy and the same in terms of the crude protein in these feeds. Now again, this is only a general table, and if you really want to do your own feed budget on your property, you should actually look at getting your own individual feed tests done, or for example if you're buying grain, or if you're buying hay, certainly request that they come with a feed test, because it actually makes it much easier then to work out exactly how much you need to be feeding your animals. And it's a good bargaining tool too, because you want to know that if you're paying good money for hay or even if you're buying grain that it's worth the money you're paying for it.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So again, I'm only using this tonight so we have a reference for you to look back in terms of actually working out the basics of a very basic feed budget for some sheep in this case.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 16. Okay, so again, I'm not going to teach you to be a master feed budgeter here, but I am trying to teach you, for the people who are not confident at doing it, that it's actually really, really easy. It's not scary at all, and it's actually really, really good. And once you get the hang of it, you think oh why didn't I do that before. I know a lot of people feed their animals, they [inaudible 00:26:08] in the paddock, they look at them, they say "Oh yeah, they look all right", but this is really designing another way of doing that, so that you don't end up with not enough feed to feed your animals, or you don't end up in a situation where all of a sudden, oh my God, they've lost condition and I need to do something about it, and I don't have any feed on hand.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So the idea of creating a feed budget is to look ahead of that, and to try and prevent that from happening. So, I've got a little example worked out down this side of the page, and I've left some room on the other side just so that if you want to play around and work out your own example at some stage, you could put your own figures in. So in my example, I'm using a 50 kilo pregnant ewe, so she's only a little ewe, she'd have to be a merino, she's got a single lamb, and it's mid-gestation. And she's on grass dominant pasture.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So the first thing that I would do is again, I'll just skip back to slide 12, because that's where my sheep tables are that tell me exactly how much she needs in terms of metabolizable energy and protein. And again, as I was saying before, you can find these tables in lots of sources. So this is not the be all and end all table, as I said. There's lots of them available online, there's been lots of great research done on sheep growth.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So looking at this table, I go down to the bottom table, pregnant or lactating ewes, mid-pregnancy. I know that my sheep is actually carrying a single, because I've had it scanned, and that's really important, and so I know that she needs 11.5 mega joules, and this is a daily figure, and she needs 8 to 10% of protein. We'll go back to slide 15, because that's where I'm going to look up how much my pasture actually has in terms of nutritional content, and again, look, this is only a table, this is only an average. And really, for you to do this accurately, I would recommend that you get a feed test done on your paddock.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So we look at grass-dominant pasture, early growth. I'm just going to take the averages here. So the average metabolizable energy is 10.5, and the protein content is about 23. So if we go back to slide 15 again, really, really easy to determine, in terms of kilograms of pasture, how much she needs in day. So all we do is we have her requirement of 11.5 mega joules, and we divide that by the content of the metabolizable energy in the food, and that's 10.5. So when we do that, we find that she needs 1.1 and that's kilos per day, of dry matter. So she needs 1.1 kilos of pasture, dry matter, to meet her energy requirements for the day. So that's actually really easy. That is the very basis of doing a feed budget, is working out from your animal requirements how much of this feed she needs in a day, and it's a simple matter of dividing one by the other.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, we'll go into page ... slide 17. Again, animals, ruminants, are limited. They can't eat unending amounts all day of dry matter, they are actually physically limited with how much they can actually consume in a day and that amount for a sheep is somewhere between two and three percent of their body weight. Now for the purposes of this exercise, I'm just going to say that the limitation of her dry matter intake is two and a half percent. She was a 50 kilo ewe, so I multiply the 50 by two and a half percent, and I find out that her total dry matter intake for the day can actually be 1.25 kilos.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'If I go back to the previous slide, I'll just go back there temporarily, remember we needed about 1.1 kilos of dry matter of the pasture. So we can actually do that, she is actually physically capable of eating 1.25 kilos in a day. My next step is I normally check the protein requirements, and as I was saying to you earlier, protein requirement's particularly important in an animal that is growing something, and the two most important growths are the growth of a young animal, or another animal growing a baby inside them. So sheep growing a lamb, a cow growing a calf. Really, really important to meet their protein requirements.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'I'll just skip back, I don't know if you remember, but on slide 12, her requirement when she's actually mid-pregnancy, about 8 to 10%. Again, I'll go back to slide 17, and again remember the pasture content was 23%. So again our protein requirements are met, easily. So I'm really, really happy with that. And those two things are really the start of your feed budget.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now there's a couple more steps that are a bit tricky, and really multiplying those individual requirements by the total mob size. So in this case, I've actually nominated that there are 200 sheep in the mob, and so obviously if each sheep needs to eat 1.1 kilos a day, and there's 200 sheep in the mob, that's 220 kilos of dry matter pasture that needs to be consumed by the mob daily. Again, I've just ... on my pasture measures, in terms of quantity, that I've gone back before, I've estimated that I've got 1200 kilos of dry matter per hectare, and I've got a 10 hectare paddock.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So I can work out exactly how long the pasture is going to feed them for. So, it's 1200 kilos times the 10 hectares, which is obviously the paddock size, so that's my total dry matter content across that paddock, and for each day, my mob of sheep needs 200 kilos of that. So in a beautiful, perfect world, that will mean that that paddock, simply feeding them pasture would last them for about, just over 54 days, so the pasture would feed my sheep for about 54 days.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 19. Okay, but we know that as with everything in farming, it's never ... things are never perfect. We know that the pasture content changes, we know it changes in terms of its quality and its quantity, and certainly earlier on when it just sort of had a bit of a boost, if anything the quality of the pasture's actually a bit better, because it's got really good levels of metabolizable energy, and it's got really good levels of protein because it's a young growing plant. But that certainly changes as it ages a bit, it certainly loses some of its energy, and some of its protein too.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We know that there's not a lot of growth of pasture in autumn, because it starts then getting cold again through the end of the autumn and winter. So there's limited pasture growth in terms of the actual quantity of the pasture that is actually available. And again, the other thing that changes of course, that the ewes requirement changes, as she progresses through pregnancy, her requirements change, and certainly as she lambs, and then has to produce milk for her lamb, her requirements change.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So what we're going to say now is that very same ewe has lambed, and she's still on the same pasture. So again, I'll just take you back to slide 12, because you will see that once she's actually lambed, her requirements for metabolizable energy actually increases significantly. So it increases from 11.5 to 17. And her protein too increases from about 8 to about 12%. I'll just go back to our slides ...'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, so her requirement is now 17 mega joules, so we'll perform exactly the same equation, that we have her requirement. Her animal requirement is 17 over the pasture content of 10 and a half, provided our pasture is still up to it. We find that she needs to consume 1.6 kilos of this pasture to meet her energy requirements. Is she able to do it? Let's have a look in slide 20, again I'm using the same assumption that she's only able to eat two and a half percent of her body weight, so two and a half percent is 50 kilos is 1.25 kilos. Can she eat 1.6 kilos of pasture? No. She can't actually physically consume that amount of pasture in a 24 hour period.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So basically that means that her energy needs have to be met in another way. So her energy needs have to be met by providing her with some other supplementary feed that has actually got a much higher metabolizable energy content. And generally, as we all know, that means that most of us go for feeding grain out to our sheep, and because it's the only way we can actually up their energy intake, while maintaining them within the limited dry matter intake they can have over a 24 hour period.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Again, if we look at the third part of the equation, what about her protein levels as a lactating ewe that's got one single lamb, she requires about 12 to 14% protein. Again, that pasture would provide adequate protein for her, because it was 23%, but it's really only ... it's actually the energy that would be limiting her in this case. And remember I said to you, energy is the most limiting thing in an animals diet, and that is the thing that you have to get right first.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Let's just go onto one more example of how things can throw a hammer in the works. So we'll go onto slide 21, and what I've done is just to be tricky, she has had twins instead of a single, so whoever scanned her got it wrong, if you have twins, and so if you go back, and I'm not going to flick back there now, but if you go back to slide 12, you'll actually see that her energy requirement is even more, and it's somewhere up near the 20 mega joule mark. So if we divide that 20 mega joule by the ten and a half content that is in our pasture, that would mean that she would have to eat 1.9 kilos of pasture, dry matter, daily to meet her energy requirements. And as we saw from the previous example, where she could only consume, based on two and a half percent, only about 1.25 kilos of pasture daily, it would be physically impossible for her to consume that 1.9 kilos to meet her energy requirements.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'And again, we know that the easiest way for us to meet that shortfall is to make it up with supplements, with foods such as grain, that are much higher in energy content. Again, as with the last example, the pasture would provide her with adequate protein, so 23% versus 14%, so it's not the protein that's limiting in this case, it's actually the energy content of the pasture. And I'll just go back to slide 15, just momentarily. Again, you can see why early on, early on in autumn when we don't have a great ... we have some growth, but we don't necessarily have the quantity of growth ... you can supplement them by using things like hay, because most hay is only slightly less ... only has slightly less energy than most of our pasture at that stage.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'But, by the time we actually get to a lamb actually being on the ground, and a ewe having to feed that lamb, much bigger energy deficit between what the pasture can provide, and what the animal needs. And so that's why people go for ... much more likely to go for grains to supplementary feed their animals, because you can see, in general, most of these grains have a much higher energy content than the available pasture, even available hay. So most people in the case of feeding out a ewe that's lambed will actually go for a grain.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'The other thing that is actually worth recommending is often some of the supplements, and I'm not going to push any of the supplements, one over another, but some of them, if you actually have a deficit in the amount of energy that you need to provide your animals, some of them are actually fantastic at providing some carbohydrates, whether that's solid or liquid carbohydrates. A lot of them have a molasses base, and that can be a good way of just bridging a little bit of a gap in the energy requirements for your pregnant ewes, pregnant ewes that have lambed, and even pregnant cows. It can be a good way.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Because we often think oh we've got to provide them with hay, and we've got to provide them with other supplementary feeding, but don't forget some of the other liquid supplements that you can get and give to them too, that certainly has a molasses base a lot of them, and they can provide a lot of energy to animals in a really easy form too.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go to slide 22. Again, really the idea of me giving you this slide is really just so if you decide oh no I can't feed them their requirements in terms of the supplement, I still need to use the pasture, or I can't go all one way or another, and that's perfectly normal, then it's really a way of illustrating, oh if you were to feed half and half, then the energy content per kilogram of dry matter is actually the sum of 50% of those two feeds. So in this case, what I've done is I've used 50% pasture, 50% oats, and I've actually come out with a total metabolizable energy of their diet of 11.5, and same with this one on this side. 50% of the pasture, 5.25, and lupines as we know, high in energy, high in protein, so 50% of them with about 7, and that's really upped the metabolizable energy content of every kilogram of dry matter in my diet.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So that's really just to illustrate that. Don't be too concerned about the numbers at the moment, but if you go back later and just get your head around how you actually work out, oh how much of each diet, how much of each ingredient do I need to put in a diet, it's purely up to you about what percentage of your diet you still want them to remain on pasture, and what percentage you want as your supplementary feed, whether it be grains, whether it be hay or whatever.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We'll go onto slide 23. Okay, I still ... I have just a few quick considerations just to go through as a final end of, obviously my focus is on the animal end of things, and so I've got to tell you there are a few things that you need to be just aware of in terms of animals and the limitations of their diets.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'In terms of ruminants, every ruminants diet has to have some roughage in it. So you can't feed them a completely fiber less diet, because they actually need the roughage, the fiber for their actual gastrointestinal tracts, the ruminant gastrointestinal tract, to actually work properly. It actually stimulates ... the roughage actually stimulate the walls of the gut, of the ruminant, so that they grow the little papillary, the little villi, which are the finger like projections on the inside of their guts, to actually grow and work properly. Roughage is actually important too, because it makes them actually produce a lot of saliva, the saliva again forms a nice moist barrier on the inside of their guts, it also stops them from having incidents with acidophilus and things like that, because it actually buffers that any acid that their gut happens to produce.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So roughage is really important. You must have a minimum of 10% in their diets, no matter what sort of diet they're on, they have to have a minimum of 10% diet. As we were discussing before, ruminants can't just eat dry matter until the cows come home, so to speak. They actually are limited physically with how much dry matter they can actually intake in a day, and that figure varies between 2 and 3% of their body weight daily. Again there has been a lot more research done on that, and how that varies and in what classes of animals it varies, and when you go look at that, those tables that I've actually given you, particularly the cow ones in these slides, you'll see that the dry matter intake will actually vary quite a bit, depending on what their body is doing.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'One of the interesting things, again in terms of a pregnant cow or a pregnant ewe is the reason their dry matter intake is limited is because of course there's something else sitting there in their abdomen actually limiting the size of the room and the rest of their gut tissue too. So that's something ... really important consideration to take in. Again, I'm not going to go too much into converting feed into as-fed, but really this is just about the fact that when you buy food, most of them are not 100% water. So you can actually convert them to an as-feed figure, which you can do by just dividing them by the dry matter content of the feed. And that really, in reality, gives you how much feed you need to feed out.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So for example if I had 100 kilos of food, and it was 90% dry matter, that means it's actually 10% of that feed sitting there that's not actually got any nutritional value as such. It doesn't have any energy, it hasn't got any protein in it. So in reality, the amount that I need to feed out to those animals would be a 100 kilos divided by 90%, and that will give you a figure somewhere in the vicinity of about 111 kilos. So in other words, all that as-fed figure is doing is making up for the fact that there's moisture in that food, and you're actually really trying to express all your nutritional values as per kilo dry matter.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

[inaudible 00:46:17]' in autumn time. They can finish during [inaudible 00:46:24] because they've come through a dry period of time, through the summer, when they haven't had a lot of green food. And so we do sometimes see some things like some selenium deficiencies, some vitamin A deficiencies, certainly where there's any sort of extended dry feeding, they are going to be more prone to having vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but as they get more green feed into them, that actually counteracts itself, because green feed is actually fantastic for providing most vitamins and minerals to animals. The only thing that I would still be weary of is again, and I've said this to quite a few farming groups before, that in terms of something that I would always look at supplying my animals, probably year round, particularly animals that are ewes growing lambs, or cows growing calves, is always probably supply them with a supply of calcium, with a bit of salt mixed in.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So you don't have to get one of the proprietary licks or whatever, you can actually make your own, but it really just means that you're going to counteract some of the incidences of calcium deficiency that we tend to see across quite a few of the seasons in Australia. Again, because for long periods of the year, we're feeding them on dry feed, we're feeding them on grains and grains are deficient in calcium too. So it really just counteracts that, and really the animals won't take the calcium if they don't need it. They're not just going to go up to it and take it and make a mess. We are by and large a continent that is prone to having calcium deficiencies in animals, so certainly an easy way to counteract it by providing it to them.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, it goes without me saying, and again I'm sure that Fiona will talk much more about pasture in terms of the effects of season on your paddocks and your pastures next week too, but of course season has effect on the nutritional content of your pastures, both in terms of the quality and the quantity, and I touched on that just a little bit before when I said you know, some of the early growth is actually fantastic in terms of quality, but there's not a lot of quantity of it, because we don't have a lot of heat, so we have moderate amounts of growth because of the moisture, but we don't necessarily have a lot of it.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'And last but not least, I want to talk about, just a little bit about soil health. Because when you're feeding your animals, really, really important to not only look after them for the time being, but look after them going forward too. So when you're feeding them in your paddocks, you do not want the paddocks to start being degraded so far that you can't get them back into a decent pasture the next year, or into a decent crop the next year. So really, really important to look after your soil health too, and that may mean that you never let them in there once there's less than 40% pasture cover. You don't let paddocks get too boggy, you try and rotate them as much as possible, and just keep a look at your ... keep an eye on them, because it's not only important that we look after the soil for the soils sakes, but the soil being looked after will actually grow better feed for the animals in the future.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay. And that concludes my presentation, so I shall now hand it back over to Tess.'

Tess McDougal:

'Thanks Cathy, for answering some of the questions that are commonly asked by producers around feed budgeting. I'd now like to open the webinar for questions. First I'll read the questions from the webinar platform, and after that I'll ask Daniel to explain how those who are joining us on the phone can ask questions.'

Tess McDougal:

'So Hanna's asked, Cathy, what would happen in nature if a non-supplemented ewe with a lamb at foot who could not eat enough in the day to meet her ME needs, would she just lose condition?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Yes, she would certainly lose condition. In general, it is ... if she was left to her own devices in a paddock with no supplementary feeding, again there's a little bit of leeway here. Because if she was by herself, and was not in an overstocked paddock, then she would still have a reasonably high content of energy and protein going into her, because it's not overstocked, and so the pasture itself has a certain amount of ability to continue to grow some high energy food and enough quantity to actually provide to one animal that would actually be pretty easy.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'I know people that can actually get away with not supplementary feeding their ewes, certainly during pregnancy, but it's because they don't have the big mobs that most producers have, and they don't have them in small paddocks, and so they only have a few sheep, and so they can actually get away with that. And so again, it's not only a consideration about the type of feed that we're providing, but also the availability of the feed that's actually on hand.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'For just a single ewe, she could actually quite possibly cope with that, because she's not under the same production pressure. She's not in a paddock with a whole lot of other animals that are eating away at this base of energy and protein that we've got.'

Tess McDougal:

'Okay, good. And why can sheep compensate more flexibly in terms of bites per hour than cattle?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, the reason ... at a base level, the reason that they can actually compensate more in terms of their bites per hour, and most of us don't even look at this when they look at their sheep and cattle, is that they actually have a different shaped mouth, and a different abilities of their mouth. If you look at a cow, and you can have a look at that cow in the picture, because I'm pretty certain I know that cow, you actually see that she doesn't have any separation down her muzzle. So there's actually no separation between the left and the right hand side of her face, whereas if I go back to slide 19, and see the sheep, this sheep actually distinctively has two sides to her muzzle.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So a sheep can do a few different things different to a cow. Number one, they can actually be much more selective in what they graze off the ground, because they can actually move both their sides of their mouths much easier than a cow, so they can actually selectively graze a lot better than a cow can, they can actually chew a lot more easily by moving both sides of that mouth than a cow mouth can. And so it's much more selective, and they chew more, and they have the ability to chew more of their food too. So they're actually much more adaptive in terms of their ability to compensatingly eat as such.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'The other thing is, and I'm sure most people know this, but when you actually give grain to sheep, you actually don't have to process it. It can actually go into them, they'll actually chew it up and process it. If you were to give that same grain to cows, or even to pigs, they don't chew it, and their gut is slightly different, and it will come out the other end like it went in. So they're great, their mouths are different, they can chew more, they can actually process the food more because they chew it more.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'There's also a school of thought that there's two different lots of sheep too, that have what we call a residual feed intake. So some sheep actually like to eat lots in one go, and then sit down and rest for the day, and those sheep are actually more efficient than the sheep that actually don't want to eat a whole lot in one go, and want to forage all day. They are actually less efficient eaters, and it's thought that there's actually a genetic difference between the sheep, and you can actually pick them out as being big binge eaters if you like, and they're actually much more efficient at utilizing their food, that's for sure. So quite interesting.'

Tess McDougal:

'Thanks Cathy. And we've got another question here from Fay. What supplements do you give to cattle? How do you feed it? Cattle obviously can't eat from the ground directly.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, so yeah, in terms of supplements to be given to cattle, there's a few basics that I would certainly go by. You can actually, again, give them calcium salt as either a made up liquid or you can buy, obviously, propietary blocks and things if you want to go that way. I would certainly always offer that to cows that have calved, and also even young steers, because it will balance out any deficiencies of calcium they've got in their body, and obviously both those groups of animals are growing skeletons, they're growing muscles, so they have a really big requirement for calcium.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

I would certainly, at a base level, supplement calcium and adding the salt to it makes it tastier so it's more attractive to them, and the added bonus of that, and making the calcium more attractive, is that when they actually eat that salt too, they'll actually drink more water, less likely to get things like bladder stones, but also drinking more makes them eat more and they're more productive. So that's the base level.

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'The other things that I would give them, and really the most effective way of actually supplementing cattle is to actually inject them. And so there's all sorts of vitamin and mineral injections you can give them. There are things of the ADE injections that you can give them, and then you know that they've actually had it, whereas some of the things that we expect them to eat, they just won't eat them, and you don't know who's eaten them and who hasn't. Whereas I prefer to give them an injection because at least I know that every single animal has gotten that injection. There are a few other requirements, like we do see quite a bit of selenium deficiency in different herds, and again the easiest way of actually providing that to individual animals is to actually give it as an injectable form.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'We do have some farmers that have to top dress their paddocks, because of selenium deficiencies, and obviously that then goes into them through the plants and things, but yeah. I hope-'

Tess McDougal:

'And in terms of supplementary feeding, Cathy, obviously they can't just be trail fed in the paddock, what would you-'

Dr Cathy Bunter:'

'No, and look, in terms of supplementary feeding I would certainly invest in some feeders, or if you can't do that, at least have some sort of base that you can actually feed them on, if you know what I mean? So it doesn't have to be a big fancy feeder, but it can be some sort of base. I know some people that have fed their cattle even out of the insides of a big tire, and all sorts of things. It doesn't have to be a fancy big feeder or anything like that, but ... there's a lot of ingenuity that's going on out there, it doesn't have to be an expensive feeder to trail feed them or anything like that.'

Tess McDougal:

'And in terms of the grain itself, you mentioned earlier that they can't digest the whole grain. Would it be worth investing in crushing-'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Exactly, definitely. That's a major difference between sheep and cattle. It's really for if you're going to feed your cattle grain, then you really do have to process it to feed them, now whether that be a hammer mill or whatever else you have available, it has to be processed, because if you try to feed it to them hole, it'll just come out the other end the same way and you've really wasted your money because they haven't made use of anything within those grains.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So yeah, that's a really important difference between those species, it has to be processed if it's cattle. Yeah.'

Tess McDougal:

'And James is asking, do sheep eat different amounts of their body weight depending on the feed type? What percentage of body weight can sheep eat of hay, silage, grass or grain?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Again, it's actually ... the figures that we work out are all in terms of the dry matter, so when those feeds are all converted back down to dry matter, it's the dry matter that's actually contained within those feeds, which is the limiting factor in terms of working out the percentage that they can take in the whole day. So for example, my sheep in the example, it could eat 1.25 kilos of dry matter. Now that 1.25 kilos, it wouldn't matter if it was 1.25 kilos of dry matter being provided by pasture, or 1.25 kilos of dry matter being provided by hay or grain. It's still 1.25 kilos of dry matter.'

Tess McDougal:

'Cool. And another one from James, does a 70 kilo merino have different ME needs to a 70 kilo composite? How do you adjust tables like the lifetime ewe table between merinos and crossbreeds?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Look the answer is yes, of course they will have different requirements. And look a lot of the sheep tables are certainly based on merinos, because we have so many of them that have studies done on them. So of course there's a variation. Having said that, using those tables is still a great guide. It's a bit like saying two people have exactly the same metabolizable energy requirement at the same kilo body weight and we know that that's not right, that everyone has different metabolic rates.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'But really, all it's doing is giving us a guide, and so while a lot of the sheep tables are actually based on merinos, they would still be a great guide for the composites. I think that in the future going forward, it's certainly ... our sheep flock has changed a lot, but there will be a lot more species specific tables, if you like, done in sheep, that actually show a variation and a difference between the specific wool breeds or the prime sheep breeds as well. It's a little bit like, certainly in the cattle world, we do have distinctive dairy cattle tables, and we have distinctive beef cattle tables, but I think that's a reason because there's probably been a lot more work done on cattle in feed lots over the years than perhaps there has been in sheep.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'But certainly the sheep world is definitely catching up rapidly. There's been a lot more research done in that area, so.'

Tess McDougal:

'Just highlighting there's a target for maternals featured in the Autumn 2020 edition of Sheep Notes, which is available on the Agriculture Victoria website, which has the team at Hamilton has gone through an adopted ... what does it say? It says changes have occurred in regards to crossbreeds and maternal composite ewes, and the guidelines were developed for merino ewes with a focus on wool production. So they've gone through and developed some guidelines for condition scoring and the maternals and what feed on offer they need at lambing. So if you Google sheep notes, autumn 2020 on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Dr Cathy Bunter:'

'Perfect.'

Tess McDougal:

'And that answers your second question there James as well, about where to obtain sheep tables in part. The other option, Cathy, would be if you had one of AWI and the lifetime wool?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Exactly. There's some great tables in lots of different places. [inaudible 01:04:20] has got some fantastic tables too, and they've got some fantastic feed apps too that you can plug figures into and muck around with different classes of animals, different feed contents, different nutritional contents of feeds. There are lots of great resources out there, and it's just a matter of looking for them, and certainly a lot of the companies, AWI and ... they all have great resources when it comes to a lot of these sheep things. It's just a matter of looking for them.'

Tess McDougal:

'Yep. So I'll now ask Daniel to explain the phone question process please?'

Daniel:

'Of course, thank you Tess, and welcome ladies and gentlemen to the phone Q and A session. To ask Cathy a question over the phone, please press star one on your telephone keypad, and wait for your name to be announced. That's star, followed by one on your telephone keypad. We'll now pause a moment just to assemble a quick question queue.'

Daniel:

'A quick reminder again, it's star one on your telephone keypad. Tess and Cathy, we're not getting anybody coming through over the phone line asking a question.'

Tess McDougal:

'Okay, that's all right, we've got another couple on the web platform. How frequently should you supplementary feed Cathy? Do you think daily? Every two days? What are your thoughts?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, again, in an ideal world, because how well the food is actually digested in terms of efficiency is completely reliant on those microbes, those little microorganisms in the ruminants gut, in an ideal world we would do it every day, because we need a specific type and number of those microbes to actually digest each different type of feed. If we feed them daily, then we're really feeding those microbes too. We're encouraging them to stay there at a beautiful level, it's much more efficient process of feeding, and animal production at the other end of it is improved too.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now I understand that in an ideal world, that would be wonderful, but not everyone can feed their animals daily. Everyone's got lots of other things to do, and as farmers, people always have a million and one things to do. So I understand too when people cannot do it daily, and they might have to just put it off to every second day. I certainly would resist doing it any less frequently than every second day, because as I said, you're actually ... by providing that supplementary feed, you're actually training if you like, those microbes in the gut to hang around and stay there and make the most of the feed that's on offer. Whereas if you keep giving them that food in and out, or not at a constant time intervals, then you're really discouraging healthy growth of that microbe population in the gut, and it's certainly less efficient.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Again, there's been lots of studies over the years that have shown that if you can actually feed them consistently, and there are food types more efficiently used and you get much better production at the end.'

Tess McDougal:

'Thanks Cathy. Chris has a question, how do you measure what you're actually physically growing in autumn?'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Okay, so how do you measure what you are physically growing? So again, I'm not going to go into a great detail with this, but we'll go back to this slide here. So in terms of physically measuring what you're growing, I would be inclined to either invest in one of the pasture rulers, and you're actually going out and measuring the actual growth of the pasture using these marks on the actual ruler, and then actually comparing them either weekly or even every few days to see how much you're actually growing.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'In terms of plot measurements, and in terms of doing things like using a plate meter, again, there are varying formulas for actually going out into your paddock and actually measuring how much is actually growing. I'll just really quickly go through these, very simple examples that I've put here. You can actually measure out a 50 by 50 meter square area, and you can actually cut and weigh the pasture or the grass in that quadrant. Once you weigh it, in terms of getting a kilo value of it, you actually then multiply it by ... the average dry matter content of pasture grass is about 16%, so that's hence why we then multiply it by .16, because we're adjusting for the dry matter content, and then ultimately you multiply that figure by 40000.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now the reason that we multiply the figure by 40000 is because there are 40000 of these quadrants in a hectare, so hence why this 40000 figure comes up. Once you multiply that all out, it will actually give you a measurement in terms of kilograms of dry matter per hectare for your paddock. The other way we can do it is which is not a weighing, doesn't involve weighing, is that you can actually walk across the paddock, and you can actually take average height.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now again, you wouldn't just take one height and say yeah that's my average, you need to take a reasonable number of samples where you're actually weighing the height of the growth in your paddock, so you take the average height. And so say I might walk across my paddock in maybe 15 or 20 areas, and actually take a height and then take the average of those heights, so add them all together and divide by however many samples that I've taken. We then subtract a residual, and the reason we subtract a residual is because in reality, we don't want that tape to be eaten down to where there's nothing left in that paddock.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'So in this case, the nominal amount that I want remaining in the paddock is about four centimeters across the top of the paddock. So say in my example, my average height I've had across the paddock was about eight centimeters, I've then taken my residual off, because I don't want to leave my paddock bare, so I've got about four centimeters all up of paddock to ... of growth to actually utilize. The average size, what we call, swarth that is available to a sheep is about a figure of 300 kilograms of dry matter per centimeter, that's how much they need. So we multiply that four centimeters by the 300 and again we'll get a nice little figure again in terms of kilograms of dry matter per hectare. So in this case, in my example, obviously it's been four by 300 with 1200 kilograms of dry matter per hectare.'

Dr Cathy Bunter:

'Now if there's any confusion about this sort of measurements, as I said, there's lots of ways of actually determining how much you've got in your paddocks in terms of quantity. These are only a few of the ways, there's also some great apps where you can actually compare your paddocks with some really in depth photo logs that are actually available online. But if all else fails, and you can't really understand how am I going to work this out, your local stock agents, your local agronomists, will actually be able to help you with working out your plot measurements of how much you've got in your paddocks in terms of quantity as well. So they're always a helpful source of information too.'

Tess McDougal:

'Thanks Cathy. So that concludes our autumn feed budgeting webinar, thanks again to our presenter Cathy, and thank you all for attending. Shortly an email will be sent to you, this will have a link to a short survey. Please take the time to fill this out, as it allows us to offer you timely information. A transcript of this presentation will be available on the registration portal, and a link will be provided in an email at a later stage.'

Tess McDougal:

'Before I close I'd like to highlight a second webinar in this series by Agriculture Victoria, titled Autumn Grazing Management Strategy, presented by Fiona Baker, a livestock extension officer from [inaudible 01:13:39]. Topics will include how to determine if my pastures are ready for grazing, how much rest should they be given, and what is the best grazing strategy to aim for. This will be held next Wednesday, the 13th of May, at 7.30pm. For registration, please contact me by phone, 0409 841 492. Thank you very much, and good night.'

Page last updated: 01 Jun 2021