Peter Ball, TIA Pasture Team
Keeping in touch with livestock and pasture condition, and caring about condition, are important in all seasons.
Both winter livestock condition and pasture condition can have wide-ranging implications and affect many aspects of grazing system productivity.
Livestock condition refers to the fat and muscle development that shapes the animal, quite literally, and provides both vigour and resilience.
The fat and muscle provide an energy and protein reserve, carrying some of the good times forward.
This livestock condition both represents a tool for use and an asset to be preserved.
Keeping a grip on condition and not letting it slip away unnoticed is a management cornerstone. The fat can be used to bridge a deficit in energy intake, but equally using too much leaves a debt to be re-paid. With interest. We have livestock condition targets for good reason. They are intimately related to responses like time to joining, lambing and calving percentages, lamb and calf weight, milk supply, and all the weaner vigour and growth that flows from these issues.
Condition affects how time is used to meet targets, or lost, and how efficiently turnoff is achieved. Keeping in touch with body condition is a big deal. It’s an asset not to be squandered by loss of focus or the creep of time.
Pasture condition is the same. Pasture density, species composition, ground cover, nutrition and vigour, shoot density, and biomass all contribute to an appreciation of pasture condition.
Good condition is an asset. Compromises in management may use some of that condition, taking biomass lower than we’d like, limiting plant vigour or reducing the proportion of desirable plants species.
This may be tolerable for a while, just like lower livestock condition can be. However, if pasture condition slides too far, this erosion will be a system cost.
That cost may be apparent in slower growth, a delay to spring response, reduced feed quality, or the increasing appearance of undesirable plants that tolerate the conditions better than the desirable plants bred for performance.
Lost pasture condition costs time and reduces productivity. The value of strong pasture condition can be seen in quicker response, more grazing value, greater tolerance of adverse conditions and better livestock condition.
Caring for the condition of both livestock and pasture is a feedback loop of productivity.
We can see this in the experience of dry times. Animals that are fed to condition perform. Well-fed pastures with good composition hang on longer and, where over-grazing is avoided, bounce back more quickly.
Pasture condition is a foundation for livestock condition. Keep in touch with your condition. Keep a winter eye on both. Livestock condition targets and consequences are discussed in Meat and Livestock Australia’s More Beef from Pastures and Making More from Sheep online manuals.
This article originally appeared in the Advocate on 3 August 2017.
Published on: 03 Aug 2017 9:02pm