Local Leaders | Upper Lachlan Landcare: The things you can learn from a cow pat

Ruth Aveyard.

Ruth Aveyard.

Channel 7 have the Logies, footy has the Brownlow or Dally M, could cattle producers of the Upper Lachlan have the ‘Perfect Pat’?

It stands one to two inches tall, has circular ripples like a target, and a small pond-like depression in the middle. Cattle that leave manure like this have a well-functioning digestive tract and are utilising all available nutrients in the grass they are eating. They are growing and gaining weight to their maximum ability.

Contenders not in the running would be fibrous manure piles. Dry, lumpy and with well-defined shapes. These cattle are eating too much fibre (cellulose) and not enough energy and protein. For these cattle to have any chance of taking out the trophy, their diet needs an increase of protein like green, actively growing pasture or energy and protein supplements provide by something like a lick, for instance. This will feed the rumen microbes so they can more fully digest the drier feed.

At the other end of the spectrum are the runny, watery puddles left by cattle not getting close to their nutrient-utilisation potential. The high protein content in fast-growing spring grasses is too much for the rumen to digest efficiently and much of it just gets lost out the back end. Adding fibre, even straw with no nutritional value, simply acts as dry matter to counteract the nutrient-dense but protein-heavy pasture.

Now that's a good-looking cow pat...

Now that's a good-looking cow pat...

Interestingly, as calves get older, and increase their grazing intake, their manure piles may not be the same as the cows. They have a higher protein requirement so their diet may benefit from a supplement that doesn’t apply to the cow.

And whilst sheep manure may not be as varied as cattle, changes in moisture content do give an indication of that protein fibre balance.

So three cheers to the cattle utilising available feed for maximum growth and efficiency – the ‘Perfect Pat’ for 2017!

For more information contact Ruth Aveyard 0447 242 474 coordinator@upperlachlanlandcare.org.au