I don’t know about all your animals, but mine have been grazing mud for months! I’d like to talk about feeding appropriately through the winter months and managing pasture in wet conditions.
Make sure you aren’t overstocked, as this means less grass to go around, and more damage to your paddocks. There are many ways of calculating this, but roughly 1.5 to 2 acres (0.6-0.8ha) feeds one cow with a calf, or 7 sheep with their lambs. This isn’t fool proof however as drought and flooding can drastically reduce your pasture growth and so extra energy must be put into the system.
A good way of adding in energy is to supplementary feed. Good examples are hay, silage, baylage, maize, or ‘hard feed’ e.g. pellets, palm kernel extract or grain based feeds. Ruminants and horses need fibre for their gut to work properly. While other feeds can add in energy fast, they should only be fed in small amounts so a good place to start is to add in hay. A good rule of thumb is that animals need 2% of their bodyweight in dry matter of feed. So, a 250kg yearling cow needs 5kg of hay a day to maintain her weight. An 80kg ewe needs 1.6kg of hay per day.
However, this is only for maintenance- so if your girls are pregnant or producing milk then they will have a higher energy demand. Make sure you are feeding appropriately for the stock you have. We have been seeing a larger number of ewes go down this year with sleepy sickness/ketosis pre-lambing because their energy requirements aren’t being met.
Strip grazing is the practice of fencing off your paddocks into strips to slow down your animals and utilise the grass by making them eat to the base. It is also a good way to keep them off the bit just grazed by back fencing, protecting the grass while it grows. Just be careful they are getting enough food!
A couple of other methods of pasture management during the weather are the use of sacrifice paddocks, or stand-off areas to reduce pugging and overgrazing. These area small areas that stock stand-off in to be fed hay or other supplementary feed. Practically, fencing off gateways, standing water and mud puddles will also help reduce paddock damage.
There are many health problems that come with underfeeding or standing in mud so adding in feed to your system and trying to keep animals’ feet dry will give you an advantage this winter.