23 January 1998

Soggy weather turns focus on feed changes

By Simon Wragg

CONTINUING wet weather means targeted maintenance scores or finishing weights for outdoor stock will not be met unless feed requirements are adjusted accordingly.

Lincoln-based ADAS consultant Alison Lockwood suggests the effect of prolonged wet weather is being felt country-wide. Priorities should be to minimise poaching damage and manage root crops to reduce wastage.

"Many producers under-estimate feed wastage due to fouling with soil. This can be 25% to 60% which reduces feed availability accordingly. Strip grazing, or at least feeding in smaller blocks, will cut wastage and help make the most of available feed."

Mrs Lockwood urges producers to calculate the energy imbalance caused by lower DM intakes, while remembering thick winter coats and fleeces mask true body condition. She advocates feeding supplements to maintain condition.

Independent sheep consultant Alistair Bird says producers with unscanned ewes should take condition score and typical lambing percentage into account when calculating energy requirements.

"This will help avoid difficulties such as twin-lamb disease and lack of milk in ewes," he advises.

As a guide, he says, a supplementary concentrate of 12.5 ME and 18% protein should be fed in the six weeks up to lambing according to condition score and weather conditions.

Consultants warn that stock may need additional concentrates to achieve target finishing weights. When finished, move to clean, dry ground, or indoors, at least 24 hours before removal off the farm, and dag to avoid dirty stock being rejected by marts and abattoirs.

Signet consultant David Evans says that a clean, dry area for outwintered stock to lie down should be provided otherwise producers risk flouting welfare codes.

Feeding on heavily poached land increases risk of scald in lambs, cautions Mrs Lockwood. This requires manually scraping between the claws to remove balled-up mud.

Lameness in ewes also increases in wet weather and can be treated with regular foot-bathing in zinc sulphate – allowing ewes to stand for at least two minutes.

According to Mr Evans, lameness is worse in cattle whose feet are continually caked in mud: "It hides the tale-tell signs such as sores and cuts. Producers need to wash feet and treat before lameness becomes serious."

Moving feeders regularly, preferably on run-back areas or hard standing, will cut lameness and poaching. Straw can be spread to reduce poaching where feeders are permanent.

Mr Evans adds that wet weather increases risk of mineral deficiencies such as calcium and magnesium, particularly for late-pregnancy sucklers with lower DM intakes. Minerals, in addition to concentrates, should be provided. &#42

WET WEATHER TIPS

&#8226 Reduce grazing stocking rates.

&#8226 Condition score and supplement feed.

&#8226 Provide dry lying areas.