Northern Tablelands Local Land Services District Vet, Dr Nigel Brown, warns producers to be wary when purchasing stock feed.
During the drought conditions, producers have to look further afield to purchase supplementary feed for their stock, and may not be aware of the origin of the feed they source. Unfortunately, this feed is often lower in quality.
Although some serious problems can occur in fodder that looks normal, e.g. nitrate/nitrite and prussic acid poisoning, it is important to visually inspect the feed on delivery.
Some factors producers should consider when visually assessing feed include:
- Evidence of gross contamination/foreign materials (e.g. soil, stubble, wood, metal)
- Inappropriate moisture content
- Unusual smell
- Presence of weeds
Contaminants and foreign materials can cause digestibility problems and reduce overall nutritional value of the feed. Inappropriate moisture content and/or unusual smells may indicate poor harvesting/processing of the feed, which can increase the risk of diseases such as mycotoxicity (mould) and botulism.
The presence of weeds in feed can increase the risk of certain toxicities, but can also pose a biosecurity threat as these weeds may become established on-farm.
Some farmers have reported they bought hay containing large quantities of soil, and some recent livestock deaths in the area have even been attributed to feed contaminated with excessive levels of nitrate/nitrites.
"We are seeing a lot of these cases around Glen Innes at present," Dr Brown said. "There have been large numbers of stock deaths linked to feed that is not fit for purpose. It's not worth taking the risk with poor quality feed. Producers need to know the quality of what they're buying and make sure that is what is delivered to the farm gate."
To ensure good return on investment and for the safety of stock, producers must take time to research the quality of the feed they are buying prior to purchase. Nowadays, producers should expect a Commodity Vendor Declaration (CVD) with all stock feed, and should request this if it is not available when purchasing feed.
"Commodity Vendor Declarations provide guarantee that feed is free from chemical contamination," Dr Brown said. "Feed analysis is critical to knowing the nutritional value of feeds, and reputable sellers will provide this information. In cases where prior analysis has not been performed and/or if a CVD is not available, producers can contact us at Local Land Services for a free feed test and comprehensive analyses."
Producers are encouraged to contact their supplier directly if they have any concerns regarding the quality of feeds purchased. In some instances, it may be possible to negotiate refund or resupply.
For more information about the nutritional requirements of your livestock or for a free feed test, contact Northern Tablelands Local Land Services in Glen Innes on 02 6732 8800, Armidale on 02 6770 2000, Tenterfield on 02 6739 1400, or Inverell on 02 6720 8300.