As we bid farewell to the last remnants of summer, producers are hard at work
during autumn preparing for the upcoming winter months. Autumn is generally a
very busy season for livestock producers, who have to ensure everything is in place
before winter arrives.
It is also during this period that calves are weaned, and young bulls and heifers go through certain selection phases in order to form part of the next breeding generation. As the season progresses into winter, bull selection also takes place.
Autumn can be unpredictable, with temperatures mimicking the heat of summer one day and the cold of winter the very next day. During cold spurts, products like Molatek’s Molasses Meal can be provided to animals as an additional supplement until the cold front has passed over.
This product can even be given as is by throwing it on the available grass as a quick energy source for the animals during the cold. It is always a good idea to speak to feed specialists in
specific areas – they can assist you in finding the right supplements and feed that are needed.
Many producers market their spring and summer weaners during the autumn months, and the majority of these weaners are then bought by large-scale feedlots. In many instances, buyers for these feedlots and agents sourcing for them have certain criteria they are looking for. The two most important of these are quality and health. When purchases are made directly from producers, good-quality, healthy animals open the door to future business.
Healthy herds produce healthy weaners, and in the process the producer has a quality weaner he can market and thus earn more per kilogram produced per hectare. Producers should always maintain a good working relationship with veterinarians in their area to ensure
that they follow the right management programme for their herd. Weaners and other animals in the herd should be dosed with a broad-spectrum product, and there are also a number of vaccinations that should be done during autumn. Areas differ and what works for one producer in one region may not always work for another producer in a different region. In areas where water sources, though natural, only run during summer rains, parasites could, for example, become a problem for livestock.
For wean shock, a significant problem to all producers, Johan Mouton, a feed specialist from RCL Foods (Molatek), gives the following advice: ‘Several days before calves are weaned, Master 20 can be given to the whole herd in order to encourage calves to learn to eat. After weaning, the Master 20 is then given only to the calves.
Calves will eat about 0,5 kg of Master 20 per day after weaning. This will help them recover from wean shock, and in the process they lose less weight. Winter calves start arriving in March. These calves will need as many nutrients from their mothers as possible in order to ensure that they have the optimum chance at performance during the harsh winter months, when nutrients are less readily available.
When it comes to marketing weaners, producers should keep in mind that they are legally obligated to ensure that their herds are branded with their registered marks in accordance with legislation. This includes weaners that are to be sold. In the long run, this branding will in itself assist in identifying animals that have to be traced back to their origins. It should be kept in mind that animals should always be branded and dehorned neatly in order to promote uniformity and prevent cruelty to the animal. Products like dehorning paste have been used for many years with great success.
Because grazing deteriorates during the autumn months, to the point at which the nutrient content of winter grazing is significantly lower than in summer, the nutritional needs of animals will increase during winter. This is why a good herd management system for licks and additional feeds has to be in place. It should be kept in mind that even though grass still has a green sheen at the beginning of autumn, its nutritional value has already decreased.
When additional supplements (mineral licks) are given during autumn and winter, attention should be given to the consumption of these supplements. If consumption increases beyond the norm for the area, producers should start looking at the available feed (the quality could be too low) and the general health of the herd (internal parasites can cause significant losses when left untreated).
Internal parasites can cause individual animals as well as whole herds to consume more additional supplements in order to try and ingest nutrients – nutrients that end up feeding the internal parasites. Common liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) occurs more often in the cooler and wetter eastern regions of South Africa, and is therefore one of the most common internal parasites found in livestock.
Sheep also have nutritional needs that producers have to keep in mind. During the autumn, condition licks can be given (for home mixes, products like Lickmix 87 or Wool Master can be used). These supplements are given not just to assist with the overall condition of the animals, but also to help prevent wool break, which reduces the value of wool that is produced.
Animals that are in production should receive Lamb and Ewe Lick or a mixture containing Wool Master in order to provide the animals with higher levels of protein. With the autumn breeding season kicking off during March for many producers and with winter lambing starting, it is essential to ensure that ewes – and ultimately their lambs – are well looked after so that losses are kept to a minimum and the profitability of the flock increases.
From November, after the summer rains traditionally start, through to May, a common internal parasite that makes its appearance in small livestock is wireworm. Wireworm flourishes in wetter areas and targets both sheep and goats. Serious infestations that are left untreated can lead to animals dying, and ultimately to a loss of income for the producer.
Another vaccination that producers should remember to bring into their herd management schedule is that for pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia). Every year, significant stock losses still occur that could have been prevented if producers had vaccinated for pulpy kidney throughout the year.
Silage and bales are significant game changers when it comes to feed during the autumn and especially winter months. Bales made in late summer and early autumn are the most common solution for many producers looking to give additional feed during these times. On the other hand, silage, though not as readily available, offers more nutrients and is a great add-on ingredient for rations.
Ultimately, healthy animals will produce more for the producers, and producers will benefit more. It is always good to ask questions and seek help when you are not sure. Build healthy working relationships with your local veterinarians, feed specialists, marketers and co-ops. This will ensure that you always stay on top of new information that is available. The economy is getting tighter and production needs to be optimal in order for you to remain profitable.
Source: Johan Mouton, RCL Foods