Summer Grazing Management and Weeds

The Importance of Summer Grazing Management
By summer, most paddocks consist of dry feed that is low in digestibility, energy, protein and many vitamins and minerals. The low value of this feed creates an alternative and more appealing appetite for freshly growing green feed that can be in the form of weeds, irrespective of the presence of anti-nutrient factors. Hairy panic, heliotrope and caltrop are prolific in this region, and can regularly contain up to 12-20% protein (NSW DPI) and 7-10MJ ME/Kg DM. Restricting access to these weeds is often best management practice, however in a time of limited feed availability; avoiding infested paddocks can be difficult. If toxicity can be managed, the energy and protein supplied by these common weeds can be partitioned towards growth.

Managing weeds in feed
In regards to on-farm efficiency, avoiding certain paddocks for grazing on the basis of weed risk is not a viable prospect. With the application of simple grazing management practises, stock may be able to utilise the nutritive value of weeds while avoiding consequences commonly attributed to the ingestion of weed toxins. A common management strategy such as spraying can be beneficial, however, spraying can increase the palatability of some weeds and in some cases predispose stock to greater toxin overload. Dr Paul Meggison, Chief Nutritionist, at AusFarm Nutrition Products recommends dilution as the most organic form of dealing with a weed toxicity risk. “By feeding hay or straw to livestock in high risk paddocks you can somewhat offset the concentration of toxins and the animal's reliance on nutrients present in weeds.”

Symptoms of toxicity
There are many varying signs of toxicity from different weed varieties; the most common initial indications include photosensitisation, head and eye swelling, drastic weight loss and jaundice. This chiefly stems from a dysfunctional or damaged liver caused by the ingestion of alkaloids and/or other toxins. Other, longer-term symptoms of toxicity, particularly in sheep, include ill thrift, permanently depressed growth rates, abortion in ewes and, in many cases, mortality.

Corrective action
Unlike other diseases, many of the signs and symptoms of weed toxicosis are quite noticeable, and if diagnosed early, corrective action can be adopted before significant damage is done. Sheep presenting with clinical signs of photosensitisation should be removed from the offending paddock and placed into a well shaded area with access to clean fresh water and cereal hay. It is important to restrict the affected animal’s access to “green feed” as the damage incurred to the liver reduces its capacity to appropriately process chlorophyll (green pigment) subsequently compounding the severity of photosensitisation.

Just graze with Detox
Toxicity in stock is a costly issue, not only inflicting stock losses, but also long term harm imposed on productivity. StockMins-Detox is the first product of its kind, available for grazing animals, and can reduce the effects of toxins in three distinct ways:
• Protecting against the absorption of a variety of harmful toxins.
• Stimulating and supporting enhanced liver function.
• Assisting with tissue recovery and repair.
Additionally, StockMins-Detox, contains AusFarm Nutrition Products’ proprietary blend of key minerals and trace elements that promote optimal health, improve feed conversion efficiency and elevate immune response. Through the three distinct mechanisms, StockMins-Detox offers farmers an additional management tool to help maximise the use of summer pastures without the threat of toxins impacting animal health, welfare and productivity.

If you have noticed any of the signs or symptoms listed above, talk to your local rural reseller or call one of the team at AusFarm Nutrition Products...