Research through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is providing information for livestock producers to make the most of grazing beef cattle on canola crops.
As landholders consider their sowing programs this autumn, lecturer in agronomy at the CSU School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences Dr Jeff McCormick said dual-purpose canola has the potential to fill the winter feed gap.
“Canola forage has high metabolisable energy and crude protein, so it has the potential to deliver high live weight gains in cattle,” Dr McCormick said.
“But there can be animal health issues for cattle grazing canola crops, including nitrate toxicity, polioencephomalacia (PEM) due to high sulphur levels, and bloat.
“Traditional thinking is to introduce cattle gradually to the crop to allow their rumen microflora time to adjust, but Australian farmers do not tend to have the time to move cattle on and off a paddock over a long adaptation period. Our research tried to determine what was a minimum requirement for an adaptation period was.”
The grazing trial of Angus heifers was carried out by CSU Bachelor of Agricultural Science Honours student John Paulet in July 2018 and supervised by Dr McCormick and Dr Shawn McGrath from the CSU School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
“The heifers achieved average daily weight gains of one and three-quarter kilograms per day for the period of the experiment with minimal animal health issues across all treatments,” Dr McCormick said.
Dr McCormick said there’s significant potential for grazing canola if it is well managed.
He has these tips for introducing cattle to the crop:
- Reduce pre-sowing sulphur fertilisers for grazing crops. The occurrence of PEM appears to be one of the most important potential health risks, and ammonium sulphate applied after grazing would supply sulphur to the crop if needed.
- Ensure cattle are well fed. Hungry cattle are more prone to health issues.
- Introducing cattle to the crop mid-late morning during the adjustment period will reduce risks of cattle gorging themselves. Cattle eat a large proportion of their daily intake early in the morning.