‘Cardboard’ pastures result in dozens of livestock starving to death


Dozens of livestock have died from starvation in New South Wales with experts blaming the wet and cold conditions seen across the state.

Studies by Local Land Services (LLS) officers have found in some cases the nutritional value of feed is worse than cardboard due to the heavy rainfall.

During wet times, pasture may grow quickly but contains high water content that is low in nutritional value.

Livestock officer Teresa Hogan said this had resulted in numerous deaths, particularly in the New England region.

“Unfortunately we are seeing some significant cases of livestock death and on investigation by our district vet it is literally starvation,” she said.

“That’s happening quite quickly because of the weather conditions, the cold increases their need for feed to keep warm and healthy.”

The record rainfall has significantly reduced the nutritional value of feed available. (File photo)(ABC Regional: Luke Wong)

Ms Hogan said while food quality for animals was usually reduced during winter, the speed of the decline had caught many farmers off guard.

“These feed gaps have hit us much earlier than expected and our livestock conditions slipped quite quickly.”

Two people stand in grass looking at farm animals in the distance.
Teresa Hogan says the cold increases livestock’s need for feed to keep warm and healthy.(Supplied: Hunter LLS)

Rain ruining feed

Following similar reports of poor pasture performance across the Central Tablelands and South East, the local land service conducted a number of quality tests.

Senior LLS officer Brett Littler said the lab results highlighted the extent of the problem.

“Some of those feed samples came back worse than cardboard,” he said.

According to Mr Littler, with record rainfall being seen across the state, livestock’s moisture consumption had increased.

A ruler standing up in some dead grass
The heavy rainfall has destroyed the nutritional value of pastures across the state.(Supplied: Brett Littler)

Mr Littler said this had meant the “animals just simply couldn’t eat enough”, resulting in declining weight gains.

“We have seen in some places a 40 per cent reduction in what we would normally see in weight gain at this time of year, so it is having a huge influence.”

Ms Hogan said it was a simple fix for farmers to prevent more animals dying.

“When it’s coming down to the fact that the animals have starved to death simply because [producers] thought there was feed in the paddocks and there just wasn’t to meet those nutritional demands — that’s something we can fix.”

Mr Littler recommends targeted supplementation where necessary for livestock struggling with growth.

“It might be some grain for ewes or if you don’t have that option it might be silage or hay,” he said.

“Throwing straw at them is just a delusion effect, with these high moistures it is probably not going to do the job.”

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