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Confinement feeding - experiences from the drought
23 May 2009
Published To

Farmer experiences - What was learnt by sheep and cattle managers in the 2006 drought

The 2006 drought was severe and widespread. It affected all areas of the South Australia.

Many people in the higher rainfall areas had never experienced a year like this before. People were very worried that herds and flocks would need to be culled dramatically, which would reduce productivity after the drought until herds and flocks could be rebuilt.

They were also worried that over-grazing could permanently damage pastures and that soil erosion could be severe.

Rural Solutions SA, with funding from the Government’s Drought Response and the EP Grain & Graze project, conducted “Coping with the season” workshops from late September 2006 to help people plan. We also did a survey of people in high rainfall areas who containment fed sheep as a drought management practice. In mid 2007 five groups obtained “Community support grants” to run “Drought review” meetings to discuss the outcomes and what they learnt.

This report is a summary of what we learnt from these activities.

While the financial cost was considerable, farmers generally did a really good job of looking after their land, pastures and stock. There was much less erosion than in previous droughts. Many people removed their sheep from vulnerable pastures and confinement fed them. They kept them in good condition and learnt that it’s not difficult.

People learnt a lot about feeding their stock, which will help them in other years.

Cattle producers usually chose to feed the cattle in the paddocks. This also worked well although a few producers did not monitor their stock condition well enough and they should have been fed more.

Some things worked in producers favour; * The quality of pastures and fodder conserved in 2006 was exceptional. Some straw made in 2006 was better than hay made in other years. This was because of the very dry finish in 2006. * Stock were usually in good condition at the start of the summer and when put into containment areas. * There was a good rain in January and some people were able to release their sheep for a few weeks and put them back into the containment area later. * There was a good break-to-the-season in late April. Many people could have been in severe difficulty if the break had been late.

For more information about any issue refer to the books “Feeding and managing sheep in dry times” or “Feeding cattle”, both available from the Roseworthy Information Centre, phone 1800 356 446.

Comments (1)
Kevin Guy Tue, 23 Jun 2009 1:39am

Hi Brian enjoyed the style of your story with a lot of good information on containment feeding.