Manage the grazing system to control stock intake
Stock intake and performance can be managed by grazing. Allocate a certain amount of pasture to stock, on a daily or weekly basis to:
- Ration intake: conserve feed from autumn to winter (when pasture growth rates slow down) in order, for example, to build up a feed wedge for lambing. Stock must either be above target condition when rationed (autumn) or supplementary fed to maintain condition. It may also be desirable to ration the intake of pregnant ewes if higher than condition score 3.5 to limit lambing difficulty, particularly in single bearing ewes. This is best done in mid pregnancy (following pregnancy scanning) to avoid metabolic disorders.
- Increase intake: rationing intake by some classes of stock to create an opportunity to allocate higher quantities of pasture to other classes, such as weaners or twin bearing ewes. Preferential allocation of green feed to priority stock on a regular basis also gives a better measure of pasture growth rates and feed consumption.
It is often desirable to increase the intake of pregnant ewes or ewes rearing twin lambs. These ewes can be given preference for the highest quality pasture and in a rotational system grazed ahead of the stock with lower feed requirements, i.e., dry ewes or those with single lambs.
Add or remove paddocks from the grazing rotation to increase or decrease paddock rest periods. If pasture growth rates are fast, speed up the rotation by moving stock on quickly. Fast moves during periods of fast pasture growth give livestock access to the best feed before it goes rank or hays off. When pasture growth is slow, slow the rotation down, then reduce stock numbers or supplement stock to allow time for pastures in rested paddocks to re-grow before grazing. In a winter rainfall system, remove paddocks from the grazing sequence in spring and consider fodder conservation options. In a summer rainfall system, remove paddocks from the grazing sequence in autumn and consider fodder conservation options.
Regularly monitor pasture and animal condition. Monitoring helps you track changes in pasture quantity and quality or animal demand to ensure pasture and animal production targets are met.