Nutrition / Animal Health

Tips on managing cattle into the calving season: Désirée Jackson

James Nason, 29/10/2014

As temperatures again climb into the 40 degree Celsius range, northern cattle producers are being urged to keep a close eye on managing cattle coming into the calving and wet season.

Queensland livestock management consultant Désirée Jackson is running a Nutrition EDGE workshop for producers to learn more about nutrition and management in Longreach next month.

She said producers should remember that as cattle transition from late pregnancy into lactation, their energy requirement increases by 30pc and their protein requirement increases by 40pc.

This represents a substantial increase which will result in rapid onset of weight loss if the nutrition of the breeders is  not being properly managed at this time of year.

Urea-based lick were also likely to be ineffective if pasture energy levels are very low, she said, meaning animals will require both an energy supplement and atrue protein source

It was also important to remember that breeders could be losing weight for several weeks before it becomes visually obvious and then it becomes expensive to put condition back on them

Paddock observations should be made in terms of the amount of leaf available for grazing; the level of greenness, if at all; and whether there is any herbage in the paddock. Herbage really drives production upwards because it is highly nutritious.

‘It is critical condition score is maintained or reconception rates will be disastrous’

When stock begin to rely heavily on grass the diet quality declines quickly if the pasture is quite dry. “This has huge implications for the productivity of pregnant and lactating breeders,” she advises. “It is critical that their condition score is maintained or the reconception rates will be disastrous.”

Testing for phosphorus in the wet was also highly recommended.  This is when phosphorus should be at its highest level, along with energy and protein.  If phosphorus is low at this time, then there is likely to be an endemic deficiency.  Testing should be done when stock are not on a phosphorus supplement because any supplements provided will affect the test results.

“Most producers are aware that phosphorus is required for bone growth and milk production, and that it reduces the craving for bone-chewing,” she said.

“However, did you know that a phosphorus deficiency can significantly reduce feed intake, by up to 40pc, depending on the level of severity of the deficiency?  This then has the spin-off effect of reducing the energy and protein intake because they are consuming less pasture.

“In addition, if protein and energy are high in the diet, such as during the wet season, but phosphorus is low, cattle cannot utilize all of the protein and energy in the diet, causing lost performance.”

To determine whether a property has an endemic deficiency or not, the best time to test phosphorus status is during the wet season.

Every property is unique, so, although one property may have an adequate P status, this does not mean that the property next door is also adequate.  For example, in the past there was the assumption that phosphorus levels on Mitchell grass downs country were adequate.  With an increasing number of properties testing for P status, there are more properties showing up a phosphorus deficiency.

Supplementation is expensive but when critical nutrients are absent from a lick, the response to supplements is disappointing.

Don’t stop supplementation immediately upon rain

Ms Jackson said there was also a misperception that there is no nutritional value in young, lush pasture because animals lose weight.

On the contrary, the nutritional value is very high.

The problem is that animals can’t physically access enough of the pasture in the early growth phase to meet their intake requirement.

For example, if a 400kg animal consumes 2.5pc of its body weight of dry matter over the wet season, this equates to 10kg of pasture.

“But if we account for the level of moisture in green feed, we are looking upwards of an intake requirement of 20kg of lush green feed.

“Animals spend a significant amount of time walking in early stages of pasture growth to find enough pasture to meet their intake requirement.”

Where possible, during this phase of early growth, she advises producers to continue providing energy supplements to meet stock requirements.

This will prevent significant weight loss and keep the rumen healthy and functional so that when there is sufficient bulk animals will grow more rapidly.

“Check that your supplement contains enough phosphorus to meet requirements.  If in doubt, ask a specialist,” she advises.


Nutrition EDGE workshop, Longreach, November 11-13

Places are currently available for a Nutrition EDGE workshop being run by Désirée Jackson Livestock Management in Longreach from November 11-13.

Producers will learn how to:

  • Better understand nutritional requirements of their cattle and sheep;
  • Be able to estimate the feed value of pasture and estimate animal production;
  • Know what supplements to feed;
  • Understand a feed label;
  • Save money on supplementary and drought feeding;
  • Make better management decisions for a range of seasonal conditions.

The cost is $1600 + GST for the first person of a business; $1350 + GST each for two people from a business and if three attend, $1100 + GST each.

The workshop also includes a follow-up day 3-4 months later, and participating producers will also receive a discount on consultancies from Désirée Jackson Livestock Management following the workshop to assist in implementing what they have learned and a quick return on their investment

For further information or to register contact Désirée Jackson on (07) 4658 3254 or mobile 0409 062 692.




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  1. Ronda Kelson, 30/03/2019

    Do you have any workshops in NSW planned. I am at Gunnedah but I would travel a bit to go to a workshop.

    Thanking you

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