Don't stuff it up!
What a start to season! For our area it has to be at least one of the best, if not the best, in my lifetime. And what result will that most likely produce?????? Complacency. Everything is easy isn’t it (sorry croppers, I know it isn’t for you right now trying to get back onto wet paddocks). Too easy perhaps, and a chance to just drift through the year, rather than really capitalise on it.
Keep a close eye on stock just as you would in a tough year. Condition score, energy requirements, worm egg counts. Everything. I hate surprises when it comes to livestock, and if you are monitoring well enough, then you won't get any. And don't forget about your pastures.
Out of all of the producers we deal with as clients, or in producer groups, so far I have found four that are close to their optimum stocking rate for an average season. And so far this one isn’t shaping up to be an average season! What the hell are we going to do with all the feed? Firstly, what a problem to have! One that we haven’t had much in the last 15 years, so you are allowed to take a moment to actually enjoy it. But you aren’t allowed to become complacent, just because things are easier.
So what can we do? Purchasing stock isn’t an easy option with prices the way they are. Both cattle and sheep have priced themselves out of contention in most cases, although there is still the occasional good value opportunity presenting itself so keep an eye out. Agistment animals have been hard to find, but another big rain might see the southern dairy farmers looking to offload dry stock onto higher ground, so again keep watching for these opportunities.
You could plan to cut more hay, but do you really want more?????? If you really want hay, you might be better to buy some from any of the massive stacks of it still sitting around from last year at very low prices. An early cut of silage might be an option to give you some high value fodder, but always remember that while good silage is good, bad silage is bloody expensive!
My preference, before you make a call on any of the options above, is that you go through paddock by paddock and work out how you can make the most of this season. There is far too much barley grass and silvergrass in paddocks around Victoria, and winter can be a very good time to clean that up. Do you have broadleaf weeds still causing problems in some paddocks?
Often we don’t get a chance to clean up and manipulate our pastures because we need every square inch of them in winter to carry our desired stocking rates. Well this year is your chance. We aren’t talking about expensive chemical brews, or wiping out entire pastures (although some you might decide to bomb a problem paddock out in spring to get a great knockdown prior to next year), but just simple cheap manipulation which can help set up your pastures for the next 10 years.
Now I am no agronomist, so I’m not here to tell you how to do it. That is someone else’s job. I am thinking about your livestock operation, and the benefits you will reap in the next decade from using this amazing opportunity to clean up pastures and allow them to perform without the frustration of barley grass and silvergrass in particular.
Good pastures allow livestock to express their real potential. Good managers allow pastures to express theirs. Do your bit this year!