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Hand feeding stock after rain

Jillian Kelly, Central West LLS District Vet. 6 March 2014

The drought across Central West NSW has been long and horrible and it may not be over yet. However some areas have received some good falls of rain (albeit much more is needed).

Problems with green pick

District Veterinarians are warning that a small break with green pick can often be harder on stock in the short term than the prolonged dry.

Just because there is a carpet of green does not mean that you can stop hand feeding. Stock will often 'chase' green pick, expending much more energy walking and grazing close to the ground than the feed contains.

They will go backwards in condition quickly and if they're already drought affected and in poor body condition they may die.

Keep hand feeding for a bit

Although it's tempting to let them out, it is important to keep stock locked up and hand fed while the green pick gets established, rather than letting stock out to graze straight after the rain.

This is not only good for the stock, it's good for the pasture.

Feed mix important

It's also important to recognise that the green pick contains little fibre and lots of water, which can cause scouring.

It is really important that drought fed stock continue to be fed hay or some sort of roughage for about two to three weeks after introduction to green paddock feed.

This slows gastrointestinal transit time, ensure they get more nutrition out of the green feed and prevent scouring.

Disease impacts

A change in season and an introduction to feed with a higher carbohydrate level can predispose sheep to diseases such as Pulpy Kidney. This is easily preventable by ensuring that your stock are fully vaccinated – this means two injections four to six weeks apart initially followed by a yearly booster.
Finally, when it does rain on bare paddocks, often the first thing to flourish are weeds, and some of these can be toxic.

A recent example in Nyngan

Recently LLS District Vet are investigating Fuchsia bush (Eremophila maculata) poisoning at Nyngan, that has occurred under just these circumstances.

Fuchsia bush contains hazardous amounts of cyanide, and is often attractive to stock after rain when the leaves are green and soft.

Unfortunately this is when it contains the most toxic amount of cyanide and can be fatal to sheep and cattle after eating only 100-200grams.

Landholders with questions regarding livestock health on their property can contact their nearest District Veterinarian for advice.