Farmers urged to monitor outwintered livestock

Farmers who choose to outwinter their livestock to reduce housing and feeding costs are being encouraged to monitor their livestock to “ensure that animals stay healthy over the winter months”.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has issued tips to farmers for that purpose, as part of its animal health planning through its Stoc+ project, part of the wider Red Meat Development Programme, which is supported by the European Agricultural Fund and the Welsh Government.

HCC says that, according to the latest veterinary advice, only fit and healthy animals should be considered for winter forage grazing – with lean, lame or older stock having higher risk of health issues.

Successful outwintering hinges on regular monitoring of livestock condition and liveweight changes to reap benefits of the system. This ensures feed allocation meets livestock needs at this time of year.

HCC highlights the importance of crops like brassiness and short-term grasses, which have high-out of season yields, with energy and protein levels equivalent to many concentrates.

It is advised that brassica like kale, rape hybrids and stubble turnips should be grazed with hay or silage available as a source of fibre – although brassicas should not be more then 70% of the diet.

Heather McCalman, HCC’s programme delivery co-ordinator offered the following advice: “Avoid grazing cattle on brassicas close to calving, as there is a higher risk of hypocalcaemia and, in late pregnancy, brassica phosphorus and magnesium may not be high enough.

It is important to ensure that young cattle are at least 200kg and have a fully functioning rumen. Strip grazing with a long feed face increases utilisation and keeps costs low and reduces competition between animals.

“All grass wintering is a great way to keep stock on a low-cost system that meets their maintenance needs. It is vital to check that body condition scores remain stable – and keep an eye out for any livestock that do not cope well with the regime,” McCalman pointed out.

She concluded her advice by saying: “Adjusting the areas allocated is likely to be needed as the winter progresses, and ensuring the grass gets at least its 100 days rest is important for growth.”

HCC has further advice on ewes, which can be found here.