Supplementary Feeding Options for Pastoralists

June 29, 2022

There are many reasons pastoralists may consider using supplementary feeding options for different classes of livestock and, with the current market prices of livestock, adding some extra weight before selling can definitely be of financial benefit.

For older, lighter weight cattle coming off rangeland pastures, feeding a high-energy, moderate protein pellet, such as Milne Feeds’ EasyBeef®, for a few weeks can increase liveweight prior to sale. These older animals are often good energy-converters, as they have finished growing and have a large frame to put weight on. EasyBeef® is a safe, easy-to-use feed that requires no introductory period for different classes of stock, provided all cattle have access to good quality roughage and water. The benefit of the Milne Feeds’ pellet range is the ability to offer livestock ad lib access from day one, without the requirement to adjust the diet slowly over a 10–14 day period, unlike typical grain rations.  This enables faster finishing, as weight gain can begin as soon as they are introduced to the pellets.

For younger cattle, supplementary feeding is more targeted at rumen development, which is essential for their performance. The ability of the rumen to perform well is dependent on rumen function and development; and we know that for livestock to survive on rangeland pastures they must have a fully functioning rumen. Rumen development is driven by the production of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from feeds, and VFAs are the major by-products from digestion of grain-based feeds. The difference between a poorly-developed rumen and a well-developed rumen comes down to the number and size of the rumen papillae present. These are finger-like projections that grow from the wall of the rumen, leading to increased surface area. The larger the surface area in the rumen, the higher the ability to absorb nutrients from feeds. Animals that have well-developed rumens are able to absorb more nutrients from feeds and will have higher growth rates than those with less-developed rumens.

Long-stem fibre such as hay and grazing feed is important for rumen functionality, as it helps to develop the muscle structure of the rumen. However, too much fibre in the ration can lead to excessive ‘gut-fill’ as fibre is slower to digest than grain-based feeds. Too much gut-fill can reduce appetite and slow growth rates.

For young weaners being drafted from their mothers during mustering season, 10–14 days on a safe, grain-based product, such as Milne Feeds’ Early Weaner® pellet, can help to fast-track rumen development. Early Weaner® is an ideal feed for use in the yards, through self-feeders or troughs.  It can be used while holding and training weaners before they are put back out on to rangeland pastures. The fibre technology used in Early Weaner® reduces the risk of acidosis, and removes the need for an introductory period, provided weaners also have ad lib access to good quality roughage and water.

In a scenario where young cattle are being early weaned below 100 kg liveweight, due to seasonal conditions, a diet of Early Weaner® pellets, good quality roughage and ad lib water is best. This will ensure good rumen development and high growth rates. Early Weaner® is a high protein, high energy pellet, specifically designed for growing animals. It is a complete feed and so also includes the vitamins and minerals necessary for growth. Young stock can remain on Early Weaner® until they reach necessary target liveweights.  They can then be turned out with other weaners, giving pastoralists peace of mind that they have fully functioning rumens and will be able to effectively digest rangeland pastures.

Both Early Weaner® and EasyBeef® are available to pastoralists from Milne Feeds in Perth, or from the Milne Feeds Depot at RSH in Broome. Milne Feeds has a wide range of pelleted feeds available to suit pastoralist needs, so please get in touch with our beef specialist, Jess Andony, on 0435 174 719,or