General Husbandry

Property Identification Code (PIC)

All owners of livestock (including cattle, sheep, horses, alpacas, goats and pigs) need to have a Property Identification Code (PIC) from the Department of Primary Industries (http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/property-identification-codes ).  This assists the government in times of emergency (eg. floods, fire, and disease outbreaks) to know where there is livestock that may be affected, and also part of trace back identification that will aid the government in tracking your livestock when sold to markets or other buyers.

Yard and Crush Facilities

All livestock producers should have adequate facilities to restrain animals for husbandry procedures such as vaccinating and marking, for treatment purposes when required, and for when veterinarians are called upon for pregnancy testing or other herd health issues. Please visit this document produced by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians as a guide for common designs. http://acv.com.au/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/ACVCrushPublicationMay10.pdf

Stocking Rate

– Stocking rate refers to the number of livestock in a paddock or whole farm, usually measured in DSE (dry sheep equivalents) per hectare. 1 DSE is equivalent to the feed required for a 50kg wether. A lactating cow can be around 25DSE.

– To work out the optimum stocking rate for your enterprise the MLA stocking rate calculator can estimate the number of stock per paddock that you can safely graze based on pasture size, pasture availability and the class of stock. http://www.mla.com.au/Extension-and-training/Tools-and-calculators/Stocking-rate-calculator

Pasture and Supplementary Feed

– Pasture management should be proactive (maintaining soil fertility) and reactive (managing pests and weeds) to maximise productivity

– Stocking rates should be altered according to pasture availability

– In summer months and drought conditions, supplementary feed is required to maintain production. Pregnant and lactating cows require more energy for maintenance than a dry cow, and should be fed accordingly

Water

– Water is an essential nutrient for all animals, and the suitability of water for livestock is dependent on a number of factors

        – pH <6.5, or >8.5 can cause gastrointestinal upsets in livestock
        – There are a number of elements (e.g. magnesium, iron) that can affect livestock if present in enough concentrations – a detailed water analysis would be required.
        – Algae can make water unpalatable to livestock
        – Consumption of water in summer will be 40% higher than in winter
        – During drought, stock require more water because they are eating more fibrous and less digestible feed
        – An adult dry cow (400kg) can consume between 35-80L of water/day. A lactating cow can consume any where between 40-100L/day
        – Troughs should be drained and cleaned regularly
        – Water sources should be regularly checked to ensure that livestock ALWAYS have access to water

Purchasing Stock

– Same health status as your herd, or higher.

– Always ask for a Health Certificate with the NVD (National Vendor Declaration) form.

– On arrival of the property, drench or vaccinate depending on status of cattle. Keep separate from home stock for at least 2 months in quarantine to be sure of no disease outbreaks (including parasites)

Joining

– Bovine gestation is approx. 282 days (about 9 months like a human)

– Heifers should be joined at about 15 months of age to calve as 2 year olds; although joining should not be solely based on age. Heifers should achieve a critical mating weight (CMW) to ensure that the majority of them are cycling and will conceive when they are joined. In British breeds this usually around 300kg, but larger European or Bos indicus breeds may be around 320kg. Alternatively, CMW can be expressed as 65% of the mature cow weight.

– You should assess your maiden heifers prior to joining by condition scoring and assessing conformation. Breed the best of your heifers! This website gives a good overview on how to condition score your cows http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/beef/handling-and-management/condition-scoring-of-beef-cattle

– Heifer nutrition prior to joining, during joining, and during pregnancy is extremely important.

– Heifers should be joined for a shorter period than cows. A nice tight 6 week joining will ensure that only your most fertile heifers are kept in the herd. Joining heifers 3 weeks earlier than cows also gives you more time to check heifers while they are calving, and also allows them more time to recover before getting in calf again as cows.