In another thrilling episode of Food For Mzansi’s weekly Twitter space Gather To Grow, industry experts put their heads together to help ease the worries of livestock farmers. With winter just around the corner and climate change causing severe weather events alongside La Niña, experts stress the importance of feed supplementation.
“During winter one has to understand the kind of foliage that can be given to livestock and animals, because normally during winter we have to supplement so that we can maintain the body. It depends on the foliage and well-planned fodder flow,” said Free State livestock farmer Clifford Mthimkulu.
Mthimkulu believes that understanding livestock per unit and small stock per unit plays a vital role in farming. He added that the infrastructure is also important.
“With people farming on communal land, you often find that the livestock aren’t in close proximity to water and supplements. This stresses an animal and plays a vital role in its growth. So if it’s kept in a place with all its supplements and water nearby, [it] helps to maintain a specific body weight,” he explained.
Less moisture in the grass during winter
Ruminant nutritionist Gisela Bisschoff added that moisture levels in grass drop a lot and quality goes down. “That is why we supplement so that we can make that indigestible part of the grass more useful during the winter,” she said.
She further explained that the use of supplements is to provide an animal with requirements that are not provided by the field. So, this means that the supplementation depends on the condition and phase of reproduction.
“During winter, we need things that will maintain the body condition and this increases production requirements,” Bisschoff said.
Monitoring calve development
Adding to Bisschoff’s point, a researcher on beef cattle nutrition at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Klaas Jan Leeuw, told listeners that farmers who breed between January and February do so because they want their calves born during the rainy season.
“For this reason, it is so important that farmers understand that during the last three months of gestation; the calves grow the most and that is during winter,” he said.
“It is important the calves have enough nutrition to develop properly, therefore supplementation during later stages of winter is very important. But most farmers run into problems like veld fires and even high lignin content that become less digestible.”
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