Safely getting stock onto grain

The state has experienced quite variable seasonal conditions this summer, with some areas receiving significant rain and even some very intensive events while others have remained very dry.  Either way, if there are large amounts of dry feed remaining in paddocks this summer, it is important to note that the energy density of this feed has most likely fallen below the maintenance requirements for most livestock types. Supplementary feeding will be necessary to maintain body condition score (see Useful Tables) and young growing stock should already be on supplements if good quality pastures are not available.  

With supplementary feeding comes the need to condition the rumen to any change in feed type over a number of days/weeks. This ‘Introducing grain to sheep and cattle’ fact sheet covers how to condition sheep and cattle to a grain-based diet. It is particularly important to monitor stock as they transition onto grain or alternative diets for any signs of shy feeding or diseases such as acidosis.

Introducing-grain-to-sheep-and-cattle

There have also been a number of high intensity events (rain and hail) resulting in a large proportion of some crops dropping grain on to the paddock. To avoid metabolic issues and possible death of stock you may need to condition stock onto that grain and to assess the amount of grain on the ground before letting stock into the paddock.  If the animal is conditioned to barley but you want them to graze a wheat paddock with a high amount of spilled grain, this must be carefully managed. The animals need to be transitioned to a wheat-based ration over a couple of weeks.  

It may also be prudent, where there is significant grain spillage, to implement additional measures such as;  

  • limiting the time of grazing (on/off),  
  • letting animals on stubble only when they have a full stomach; and  
  • offering additional high-quality roughage.  

Familiarise yourself with the early signs and symptoms of acidosis Sheep Drought Feeding Guide 2017 (feedinglivestock.vic.gov.au)). Animals are most at risk when eating diets high in starch.  

Fact sheet – Sheep nutritional requirements when grazing stubble 

https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/crops-and-horticulture/grains-pulses-and-cereals/crop-production/general-agronomy/sheep-nutritional-requirements-when-grazing-stubble 

Animal requirements for protein and energy 

These tables are helpful in determining the requirements of your class of stock, so you can actively manage their grazing on high quality forage such as grain to avoid health issues and weight loss.  

https://www.feedinglivestock.vic.gov.au/sheep-resources/useful-tables-sheep/ 

https://www.feedinglivestock.vic.gov.au/beef-resources/useful-tables-beef/