A CONTROLLED release nitrogen supplement has proven a major winner as a drought management tool for Gin Gin cattleman Dennis Neller.
The Alltech product Optisync was used in combination with a drylick and relatively low value sugar cane tops to ensure the productivity of the herd during the recent, long running drought.
The cows were fed 6kg/head/day of cane tops as well as a low intake drylick based on salt, lime, phosphorus and urea. The ad-lib consumption was calculated at 350 grams/head/day. Over the top of this ration, Optisync sourced through Biggenden Ag Traders was mixed to deliver 30g/head/day at a cost of 12c/head/day.
Mr Neller runs a predominantly Brahman based, crossbred herd at Horse Camp near the Burnett River, south of Gin Gin.
"Throughout the drought the cows were constantly full and content despite there being very little pasture available," Mr Neller said.
"Optisync played a key role in keeping the rumen functioning on low quality hay and ensuring the cows were healthy and productive.
"Body condition was maintained and to do this on cane tops is a particularly great result.
"It also meant that once the rain finally did arrive, the cattle responded much quicker than otherwise to the green feed coming through."
Mr Neller said would reintroduce Optisync as part as of a dry lick supplement when currently green pastures matured, and protein levels dropped.
Cows were generally bought from the Burnett Livestock Exchange at Biggenden, with progeny sold back through the same selling centre. Bazadais bulls are used with the calves grown out to about 300kg.
Mr Neller said the progeny of the Bazadais bulls produced well marbled beef and a carcase with a notably higher dressing percentage.
Cattle numbers were reduced during the drought to less than 200 head running on more than 400 hectares of native and unimproved pasture.
Mr Neller said he had been very impressed with the benefits of using a controlled release nitrogen source during the past four years, but it had been in the last 12 months during the worse of the drought that the biggest benefits had been seen.
"The hay by itself would be very limiting in its nutritional value but with the Optisync, it was fully utilised and the cattle performed very well," Mr Neller said.
Alltech Lienert Australia nutrition adviser Toby Doak said Optisync was ideal for low quality roughages, including mature, winter pasture, which was typically low in protein.
"Low quality roughages are very limited in value if fed alone but with the protein from Optisync and its ability to provide a constant nitrogen source to fibre digesting bacteria the performance from the animal is improved significantly," Mr Doak said.
"Optisync can replace urea or protein meal in the animal's diet and will dissolve over an eight to 10 hour period in the rumen.
"This extended period is where the significant efficiencies are gained and even when the animal is at rest the product is working.
"This is particularly important in the colder months when maintaining body condition becomes more difficult."
Mr Doak said the increase in rumen bacteria resulted in increased levels of microbial protein, which was recognised as the most effective bypass protein because of its amino acid profile.
"This is reflected in the condition of Mr Neller's cattle despite the incredibly tough drought conditions," Mr Doak said.
"It really is a credit to him to have some strong, performing animals in such challenging conditions."
Mr Neller also uses an Advantage creep feeder to provide the calves with grain-based pellets sourced from Riverina Stockfeeds in Murgon.
"I've been using the creep feeder for the past two years feeding up to 4kg/head/day," Mr Neller said.
"The benefits of a nutrition program for the calves and their mothers are there to see."
Mr Neller said the pellet supplement provided to the calves also took pressure off the lactating cows, helping them to preserve body condition and improve conception rates.
"The rain has finally arrived in the district and the seasonal conditions have improved significantly heading into winter," Mr Neller said.
"With cattle prices hitting record levels its great to have cattle on hand and to be able to capitalise on the big lifts in the market."
- Alltech Lienert nutrition adviser Toby Doak is leading a study tour to the US and Mexico on May 15-29. Contact 0408 304 914.