CAUTION: Livestock producers are reminded to be mindful of pasture quality and nutrition despite recent rainfall.
CAUTION: Livestock producers are reminded to be mindful of pasture quality and nutrition despite recent rainfall.

Why green grass can be ‘disastrous’ for some cattle

WHILE paddocks across many parts of the Northern Rivers are now tinged with green, livestock producers are reminded to be mindful of pasture quality and nutrition.

NSW Department of Primary Industries said while recent rain has been welcomed across the region, farmers must be aware of risks to livestock through changes in feed quality and nutrition.

NSW DPI development officer Todd Andrews said recent patchy rain in drought and fire affected areas had seen some pasture growth develop which was a great step towards recovery, but could also be deceptive in terms of its nutritional quality for stock.

"Short fresh pasture or 'green pick' has a high water content and is low in dry matter, so some stock will not be getting the quantities they need, which can be disastrous for those already in poor condition," Mr Andrews said.

"Despite its low nutritional value, producers should monitor those animals that 'chase green pick' given that it is also highly palatable and an enticing variation to long term drought rations."

Mr Andrews said low dry matter in the fresh growth could lead to animal health and welfare issues, in lactating cows for example, who have high energy requirements.

He said drought or fire affected paddocks have very little fibrous 'old growth' left to buffer intake and so it is very important to monitor stock during this rapid dietary transition.

"Most of the things that can go wrong - such as clostridial diseases, bloat, nitrate and toxic plant poisonings - cause rapid death, and so prevention strategies are the best approach," Mr Andrews said.

Producers are encouraged to:

1. Vaccinate for clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and black leg

2. Continue supplementary feeding to help transition stock from grain to pasture based diets. Avoid the abrupt dietary change from putting hungry stock into fresh paddocks.

3. Monitor and control factors that can affect stock herd/flock health including unusual plants and weeds, especially around areas where introduced fodder was fed out.

4. Be aware of potential nutrient toxicities and deficiencies such as grass tetany along with nitrate/ nitrite and prussic acid poisoning.

5. Monitor and control internal and external parasites such as worms and blow fly

6. Be mindful of pasture quality and quantity before livestock purchases are undertaken.

For more information, the new DPI Primefact Restocking after drought and fire is available at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/climate-and-emergencies/droughthub/information-and-resources