27 October 1995

Balance rations or put stock at risk

STOCK welfare may be at risk when producers fail to balance rations to take account of forage shortages for the coming winter.

This is the message from ADAS senior livestock consultant Dr Elwyn Rees. Speaking at a meeting on forage options, he advised giving priority to stock that require high levels of nutrition over less productive animals.

"Those that must have high planes of nutrition are cows in early lactation, autumn calving suckler cows, young calves under six months of age and bulling heifers," he says.

"Sheep must be fed to ensure they are in proper condition at lambing. Without the correct energy and protein their lambs may have low birth-weights, and the ewes may produce poor quality and quantity of colostrum. This could increase the risk of twin lamb disease and watery mouth in lambs.

"In cattle poor feeding increases stress which can lead to respiratory diseases, and staggers or ketosis in cows." He advised extending the grazing season to help eke out winter forage stocks.

"Autumn grass will feed dry suckler cows but those producing more than a gallon of milk may need supplementing," he said. "Offer about 3kg a head of straw and 1.5kg of maize gluten or sugar beet pulp and ensure they have plenty of minerals and salt licks.