This article was first featured in Adelaide Hills Magazine Summer 2016
Yes, you have now realised your dream of owning some land – great. I think there is a bit of ‘farmer’ in all of us! Now, before you think you can become the next sheep or beef barren of the Hills, there are a few things you may want to consider before you build your livestock empire. Deciding what sort of livestock to have on your property may come down to quality and quantity of water, pasture, fencing, the size of your property and terrain – to name a few. There are also responsibilities that come with owning livestock. You’ll need to consider things such as shelter and stocking rates and who will look after them when you go on holidays. You may choose to buy in animals, agist or breed… hey, you may even dabble in the buying and selling game. The main goal is, however, the same – healthy and happy animals. Let’s focus on water and dry feed nutrition – you need to determine whether you have enough supply of both to see your stock through the hot dry months.
The two main things are quantity and quality. Where is your water supply coming from: mains, bore, dam, rain? How much will you need? Is the quality safe for stock consumption? You will need an adequate water system and trough set up in paddocks to ensure the water gets to the animal/s.
Did you know?
The average daily water requirements of stock can differ greatly depending on the animal or breed. As a guide:
- Sheep: 7L per head
- Pigs: 7L per head
- Horses: 50L per head
- Beef cattle: 50L per head
- Dairy cattle: 70L per head
- Goldfish: 1 x fish bowl
Quality of water is also vitally important
For production, water with less than 3000 parts per million (ppm) total salts is generally suitable and can be used continuously by all livestock. If ‘green feed’ is available, animals can tolerate higher rates. Older ‘dry’ stock can also tolerate a slightly higher salinity than young or lactating stock. Generally, most stock can, if necessary, tolerate up to 5000ppm but this is not recommended on a daily basis. Cloudiness of water in dams due to clay suspension is normally not harmful and as a rule of thumb can indicate low salt levels. Surprisingly, clear water can indicate higher salt levels. Be careful with bacteria or algae as this may cause harm. A clean trough with cool, fresh water is always best practice.
The recommended daily food intake is approximately three percent body weight for cattle, and for sheep and goats 4.5 percent body weight. Hay and silage is the most common way of keeping condition through summer. A ‘feed test’ may be helpful to see if the feed is good enough.
In the warmer months, when green fresh feed is not readily available, minerals and vitamins can also be used as supplements. They can come in the form of loose minerals, injections or blocks. They are not used on their own but instead complement feed. Feeding minerals can improve digestibility of feeds by up to 15 percent. This means every mouthful to the animal is worth more.
General health and wellbeing
Compared to other seasons, summer is fairly straight forward when it comes to caring for your livestock. Different animals or breeds will require more specific care but generally, there are a few things to watch out for and be mindful of in addition to food and water:
- Shelter/yarding: we all like a bit of shade!
- Flies: watch out for fly-blown sheep.
- Body condition: this is as simple as, how do they look?
- Stocking rates: the estimated dry sheep equivalent (DSE) varies dramatically depending on seasons, pasture quality, rainfall etc.
If your new adventure is overwhelming, there are people and organisations across the Hills that can provide useful advice and assistance. Farm Gate Services and Hills Farm Supplies are always willing to help. Contact us at Farm Gate Services.