Managing Spring Feed

Managing cattle on spring pastures can be a challenge.  There are several health considerations to bear in mind with lush feed.  These include the risks of bloat, pulpy kidney, as well as nitrate and prussic acid risks when grazing some crops such as forage sorghum.

In general, good management and preparation can reduce many of the risks associated with lush feed.  I strongly recommend ensuring vaccination programs for 5 in 1 are maintained.  The risk with pulpy kidney is increased with changes in feed digestibility, so a booster is often a very effective preventative.

Bloat continues to be a risk in many pastures with high legume contents.  Unfortunately there are no 100% effective prevention methods for bloat.  There are however some basic management techniques to use if you are concerned about a bloat risk. 

These include:  
Avoid introducing hungry stock onto pastures that pose a risk. Its worth providing hay prior to introduction to achieve gut fill and manage the consumption of pasture

It’s best to put cattle onto pastures later in the day rather than in the morning when they are more likely to graze harder.  Research has shown cattle do around 70% of their grazing during the morning.   A good rule of thumb to guide you when to move stock is to watch for them resting up and then moving them to the new pasture.

Avoid moving stock on overcast, rainy days. This will change the palatability of some pasture and has the potential to encourage stock to eat more.

Avoid rapid rotational grazing practices while pastures are a bloat risk.  

Bloat prevention products such as bloat blocks, licker drum mixes or oils are not 100% effective in preventing bloat. Consider where you use them and try to place them in areas stock congregate such as water points or rest camps.

By Alastair Rayner, RaynerAg