Producers are finding well designed and positioned stock containment areas can take the sting out of managing livestock during challenging seasonal conditions, and one of those producers is Jim Young.
Mr Young has a 930ha mixed farm in the Inglewood district in Victoria’s north-west, and the farm is 85 to 90 per cent sheep, the remainder being cropping.
He has developed and refined a system to include four SCAs in his farm management plan.
‘‘Before we started using SCAs, the place was like a dust bowl in summer,’’ Mr Young said.
‘‘Sheep walked around the paddock and it powdered off.’’
A great deal of thought and planning went into the location of Mr Young’s SCAs, which are conveniently located next to the shearing shed and stock yards, with plenty of access to shade, shelter and water.
Mr Young said he could use the SCAs regularly during shearing and crutching, before sheep were loaded for market and as an adjustment paddock for any new rams.
‘‘I found the optimum space allowance in my SCAs is three to 5sqm per head, and I generally keep containment mobs to around 300.
‘‘If the season has not been flash, I start thinking in December about what I am going to do.
‘‘If you are starting to think it is time for them to be in containment, you probably should have done it a month earlier.’’
Mr Young said sheep needed to enter the containment period in good condition, and it was much easier to keep them that way than to try to improve their condition during a dry year.
All sheep are drenched and vaccinated before going into the containment and Mr Young estimated it took about seven to 10 days for stock to settle in their new environment.
After a decade of working with SCAs, Mr Young understands the value of keen observation.
‘‘First thing every day, I come down and look around the mobs, this helps to identify shy feeders or other issues, and early signs of illness which increases in risk after six to eight weeks of confinement.’’
■For more information or to obtain a copy of the relevant Drought Feeding and Management book, visit: www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/drought or phone the Agriculture Victoria Customer Service Centre on 136 186.