Drought management for the livestock businesses
Making decisions in a drought is difficult and getting some perspective on the issue is important before you can implement effective measures.
Having a plan for the long dry summer is critical for livestock management, as well as maintaining soil cover. Decisions farm businesses make will vary depending on individual circumstances.
Regenerative Agriculture Project Officer with Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula, Mary Crawford, said that preparing a plan is the first step.
“Your plan should include objectives, dates and numbers where possible, and ensure all people involved in the business are part of the decision making process,” she said.
“Establishing a support network, seeking advice and gathering information are vital when you are deciding the future direction of the farm business, on-farm resources that are available in the drought and how you will recover.”
PIRSA Animal Health Adviser, Trent Scholz, said producers should consider how much time would be needed to invest in a strategy.
“Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll need for developing and implementing your plan,” he said.
“You may need also to consider intensive confinement feeding of livestock, and cost out alternative options such as feeding, selling or agisting some or all of your livestock.
“Underfeeding breeding animals can compromise their ability to be productive the following year. It is better to feed fewer animals and meet their requirements properly.”
Mary noted that long-term strategies may include examining limitations in the soil preventing plant roots from accessing moisture, such as pH and sub-soil constraints.
“Reassessing pasture species and investigating the use of more drought tolerant variety could be considered,” she said.
“Short-term plans should examine the amount of feed on hand and the type of livestock that will be kept.”
“Identify your most valuable paddocks (recently renovated, most productive) and ensure these paddocks are not over-grazed and maintain minimum groundcover.
“An important strategy is a ‘back door’ strategy with ‘what if’ scenarios and how your farming business would manage these if the situation should arise, such as a late break the following autumn.”
More information The NREP Spring 2019 Tips and tools web page www.landscape.sa.gov.au/ep has a list of resources that can guide you with your summer/autumn livestock plans with information on constructing a confinement feed area, and free water testing is available through your local Natural Resources office. The Natural Resources EP Regenerative Agriculture program is funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
Visit the PIRSA Drought Hub for more information on farm business support, and fact sheets on agistment, drought feeding and nutrition, pest and weed management and more: