This was the topic of discussion at the Northland Sheep and Beef Council AGM in early October 2010. A very interesting presentation was given by Chris Boom, Agfirst Northland, and this is some of his and his fellow guest speakers suggestions.

Summer and autumn offer poorer quality and quantity feed availability. Mature stock will experience a maintenance/weight loss period that they will catch up on when feed improves again; this is known as compensatory gain.

Calves do not have the ability to achieve this compensatory gain; growth lost during this time is not made up until much later on (if at all). Growing calves are vulnerable. They need high quality nutrition and protection from parasitic pasture challenge. Planning for these two factors is essential for achieving target weights during the summer /autumn feed stress.

Offer grazing to young stock first, allowing them choice and therefore not forcing them to hard graze. Finish off the pasture with older stock. This will ensure calves get the best quality feed available and least larval challenge. Larvae do not travel far so the highest concentration of larvae is around the cow pats, cattle will avoid these areas if given the choice. Most larvae are found in the first 2cm of pasture height so hard grazing forces cattle to eat the most infective pasture. Try to keep pasture green and leafy.

Feed supplement should be well researched, ensure money spent is going to give a return. Choose something that this age group will convert into weight gain.

Quality nutrition will foster a healthy immune system; this will aid in minimizing disease.

Is your drench effective? Parasites cost live weight gain long before visible signs of drench failure. L3 larvae of intestinal worms which are ingested whilst grazing cause an immune response which uses up energy necessary for weight gain. Consider conducting drench efficacy

Hard grazing equals low quality feed and high parasite larvae intake. Result: low growth rates