Drought in Northern Australia

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Where is the rain?

Whilst many Southern areas in Australia are waiting for their winter rains, approximately 66% of Queensland remains drought-declared. 2017 has seen the second driest June to be recorded for Australia; which has had an impact on the quality of grasses available for cattle in Northern Australia. With limited rains, producers need to think of other methods and supplements to feed their stock until the drought breaks. Here at Beachport Liquid Minerals, we understand the importance to maintain rumen and body functions of livestock throughout a drought, which is why our product isn’t only trace elements, but a 3-in-1 unique formulation that also contains electrolytes and amino acids.

A Drought Plan is vital!

It is important to have a drought plan and ensure it is implemented once signs of a drought occur. Your drought plan should include important factors such as:

  • Regularly maintain your water consumption sources. e.g. check for leaks, ensure you have water efficient taps in place, are water recycling options available?
  • Financial situation – identify and analyse the possible future issues, prepare cash flows for 2-3 years of drought, chat with your bank manager to determine the feasibility of your plans.
  • Livestock – costs and numbers. Do you need to reduce your current stock numbers? How long can you maintain your stock numbers when considering increased costs for feed?
  • Effects on the pasture and soil structure – You may need to reduce your livestock numbers to ensure the future of your pasture. Invasion of weeds and native species can occur, ensure you have plans to combat these. Soil erosion can occur from wind, can you reduce the impact?
  • Feed – availability, and costs. How long will your existing feed last? Is other feed readily available in your area? How much will continued feed purchases cost? Is it feasible to purchase feed over an extensive period of time?
  • Contact local government for information on drought initiatives that may be available.

Don’t forget to review and maintain your plan regularly to ensure your plan remains relevant.

Know your feed

Once the grasses start to dry off, the quality of the pasture will decrease, therefore having a direct impact on the grazing stock. Pasture that has become dormant will usually have low Metabolic Energy (ME) and low protein contact. Feeds with low Metabolic Energy content will reduce the animal’s performance, whereas low protein content will influence the rate of microbial fermentation in the rumen.

Pasture quality is dependent on multiple factors such as soil type, pasture age, temperature, rainfall as well as the phase of growth and development. In a drought situation, it is imperative that enough feed is given to keep the microbes stimulated in the rumen and enough microbe by-product is produced to maintain bodily functions. When supplementing feed through a drought it is essential that adequate amounts of protein, energy, roughage, and minerals are incorporated into their diet to allow the livestock to maintain weight and condition through the drought.

Many of our clients in Northern Australia have found our White Cap product (with added Phosphorous) a significant advantage for their livestock during dryer season. As with all Beachport Liquid Minerals products, the White Cap product is simple to use, cost-effective and has the unique 3-in-1 formulation of trace elements, amino acids, and electrolytes.

In the first year, we started using the White Cap with Phos we found that we halved the amount of dry season lick that we would’ve normally put out and the following years in those areas we didn’t use any other supplement other than BLM. Not only was it a monetary saving in loose lick but the cattle visibly held their condition better, conception rates improved and the flow on effect to that was that mortality rates decreased.” Stirling Fearon, Tambo QLD.

Beachport Liquid Minerals will help the animals utilise the nutrients available from the feed that is accessible. During times of drought, livestock may be deficient in energy, protein, and minerals due to their change in diet. We recommend that producers continue the use of blocks and/or licks together with BLM during very dry periods. In our experience, producers will see a significant reduction in block/lick consumption when using together with Beachport Liquid Minerals supplements in the trough.

The Sargents were also supplementing their sheep and cattle with a urea-based dry lick but switched to a Beachport liquid mineral supplement in November to cut costs.We have gone from spending $800 a week on dry lick to $800 for the past six weeks. It seems to be working really well. The cattle and sheep both seem to be holding condition on it. I like that all the stock are getting it, rather than lick where you can have a situation where some animals are getting most of it. We’re delighted to have found it.”
Stewart Sargeant – Queensland Country Life newspaper article

We understand that drought can create several stressors for Australian producers. The Australian Government has a number of services available to help producers that are experiencing drought, find out more at http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/

Kate Fairlie
B.Agricultural Science