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This article was published in 1938
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By N. H. LITCHFIELD. Inspector of Stock, Bega

Certain areas of the South Coast of New South Wales which are utilised for dairying, pig raising and production of sheep and wool are confronted with the problem of mineral deficiency. The areas referred to involve large tracts of country which if properly managed can in many instances be utilised to good advantage in the production of commodities consisting of butter, bacon, mutton and wool. Sections of the far South Coast in the localities of Burragate, Towamba, Wolumla, Bemboka, and Cobargo one notices display the characteristics of mineral deficient land. Cattle on these areas in many instances present a poor, stunted condition and never thrive as is the case with stock on other sections of the coastal country embracing the hills and river flats where soil conditions are much improved.

Of recent years one observes the progress made over large sections of what is known as Bone Chewing Country by improved methods of farming, embracing better methods of feeding, cultivation of larger areas of fodder crops, pasture improvement, top-dressing of pastures and making available suitable stock licks. Frequently trouble occurs on properties where these improvements are not being adopted with cattle developing what is known as Osteomalacia a disease of the bones confined to adults. It is a condition in which lime salts are removed from the bone. It also results in diminished resistance to disease, allowing the increased formation of organic matter, with consequent enlargement. The disease may affect all classes of animals including birds. Poultry confined to a run and fed on an unsuitable ration deficient in calcium and phosphates develop what is known as rickets. This ailment also affects dogs, pigs, sheep, foals and olives. With penned birds sterilised bonemeal added to the dry mash will keep the birds in good health. Pigs affected with rickets, which is a common ailment in this district frequently respond to treatment if given bonemeal and meatmeal in the daily ration. In the rearing of calves it is advisable to use lime water at the rate of a pint to four gallons of milk when the calves are put on to separated milk as a daily ration. The addition of a gruel or porridge consisting of boiled linseed meal or maize meal should also be utilised to increase the amount of mineral matter in the ration. When consideration is given to the analysis of cows milk and the constituents of the animal's body, it will be seen that mineral matter is present in both, and hence is necessary in animal food. In young stock it goes towards the building up of bone and if stock are raised on country deficient in mineral matter they will be weak in bone. A striking instance of this feature is in regard to a well known pure bred herd of cows in this district which are confined to a property where bone-chewing is prevalent and where the use of suitable stock licks, pasture improvement and top-dressing with superphosphate are necessary. Cattle coming from this land and placed on country where these deficiencies do not exist show a marked improvement. Much can be done on mineral deficient areas to improve the general health of stock and also increase the carrying captivity of such land by improving the pastures. Considerable work in this respect has been carried out by progressive farmers in the district by setting down mixed pastures consisting of:—

Mixture: Prenial Rye Grass, 6 lb.; Cocksfoot, 1 lbs.; Red Clover, 2 lbs.; Subteranean Clover, 2 lbs. per acre together with 1 cwt. super phosphate per acre sown with the seed and broadcast on to prepared land, the seed being sown either by hand or by machines.

Another mixture which has proved popular in this district and increased the production of butter and milk on a number of properties is:—

Mixture: Red Clover, 8 to 10 lbs.: Italian Rye Grass, 2 lbs. per acre.

On grazing land a considerable area has been sown with 6-8 lbs. of lucerne which has proved a valuable asset to increasing the carrying capacity of hill country.

On properties where such improvements have been made in the pastures, bone chewing is now unknown, and the general health of the stock much improved. In addition to improving the pastures many farmers are also using a stock lick consistnig of common salt and calcium-phasphate. These licks are provided separately so that the animal may take what it requires daily and for this reason it is not advisable that the two should he mixed or added to the daily ration. The usual practice in many dairy farms is to provide a box in each cow bail containing the two minerals not mixed so that each beast can have access to the lick at milking time. The use of hoppers on larger properties where sheep and cattle are raised are desirable for holding the lick so that it will not be exposed to inclement weather.

Better methods of feeding play an important part in providing the required mineral matter in the daily ration. A balanced ration commonly used on a number of dairy farms is one that can be produced at a low cost on the farm and consists of maize, lucerne hay and maize meal or silage, lucerne chaff and maize meal. These rations can be supplied at follows:—

Green maize chaffed, 40 lbs.; lucerne chaff, 13 lbs.; maize meal, 2 lbs.; or maize silage, 40 lbs.; lucerne chaff, 13 lbs.; maize meal, 2 lbs.

Saccaline is also used during the winter months to provide succulence to the daily ration of the dairy herd, while green oats is provided on many properties as a winter fodder crop for grazing purposes.

When consideration is given to the composition of the cow's body and of the milk that she produces tt can be readily understood that she must be supplied with a food which will enable her to produce the various substances required. The body of a normal cow, apart from the stomach and intestines contains 16½ per cent. protein, 19 per cent. fat, and about 41 per cent. mineral matter consisting mainly of bone, while in addition there is about 51 per cent. water or moisture present in the body. A cow that yields, say, 600 gallons of milk a year gives in that time to man about 780 lbs. of nutritious matter, or an average of over 2½ lbs. per day for each day that she is milked, supposing that she is milking 300 days in the year. A cow in full milk yields far greater amounts of solid, highly nutritious matter. A cow producing 600 gallons of milk supplies us with about 210 lbs. of protein or nitrogenous matter known as casein, the portion of the milk which makes cheese so valuable as a food. Casein represents the greater part of this matter. The carbohydrate content of the milk which are fat formers consist of milk sugar and butter fat. A good cow will produce about 240 lbs. of butter fat in a year. If the dairy cow is to supply us with these quantities of nutritious matter, and at the same time provide for the wear and tear which is constantly going on in her body it is essential that she he given a well balanced ration that is a food that contains flesh formers and fat formers technically known as nitrogenous and carbo-hydrate matter in sufficient quantities to enable her to do all the work that man requires of her. In addition to all this the dairy cow has to nourish a foetus or young calf, which she is carrying during a big portion of the time that she is supplying all this nutritious matter.

Mixed pasture when in good condition is the best food for dairy cattle. This class of pasture is the short, green succulent growth of suitable grasses and clovers as previously described. Rye grass, cocksfoot and clover is a balanced ration and if available in sufficient quantities will supply all the body and production requirements of the dairy cow. Certain areas in this district where bone chewing is prevalent due to lack of mineral matter consisting of calcium and phosphates are devoid of suitable pasture. the grasses consisting of a poor fibrous nature such as Parramatta Grass, Kangaroo Grass, Bergalia Tussock, Couch Grass, and a variety of weeds such as Cobbler's Peg, blackberries and ferns and sedge. Owing to the unsuitable ration provided on this class of country where no supplementary feeding is carried out frequent losses occur in stock. Many of these areas are gradually being improved with better pastures, cultivation of fodder crops, conservation of fodder and losses in stock are rarely heard of. The conservation of maize silage is becoming more popular throughout the district and quite a number of new concrete tub silos have been erected apart from the construction of many pit silos. Feeding of the dairy herds is carried out on many farms during the winter months when the pastures are at there lowest feeding value and each cow in the herd receives her daily ration in the feeding stalls adjoining the silo or in close proximity to the milking shed. Rotational grazing is practised on a number of farms in conjunction with stall feeding and the increased returns obtained from such methods are astounding. On a property at Wanatta near Wolumla a few years ago serious mortality occurred in dairy cattle involving much loss due to poisoning as a result of the dairy herd eating the carcases of rabbits which had been poisoned at the time. On other properties it is not an uncommon sight to see stock eating the bark of trees and chewing sticks and other foreign substances. Overstocking plays a very important part in soil fertility due to the continual withdrawing of nutritive substances without returning anything in the way of manure. As a result of continuous stocking these lands have deteriorated in value where no application of fertilisers or manures have been made and the best grasses have gradually been eaten out and disappeared to be replaced with weeds and other rubbish.

If pastures were not so heavily stocked, and paddocks spelled occasionally as is the practice in rotational grazing the grass would have a chance to stool out and seed and thus preserve there continuity in the pasture. Overstocking also affects the moisture content of the soil due to surface drainage. Where the pasture is preserved and properly stocked land the moisture is also more readily absorbed by the soil which is a very important feature in districts of low rainfall.

Pig raising is an important adjunct of the dairying industry and the by-products consisting or skim milk, butter milk and whey are utilised for pig feed. Many farmers use a ration for the pigs which is deficient in mineral matter resulting in stunted, sickly and weak constitutioned pigs. Instances where the ration consists of skim milk maize and green stuff enable pigs to be raised to dress 75 lb. at from 13 to 14 weeks. It can readily be seen what a well balanced ration will bring about.

One may summarise the various point outlined in emphasising the importance of improved methods of farming to bring about a better condition in the general health of stock by adopting the following methods:—

1. Pasture improvement.

2. Conservation of fodder.

3. Better methods of feeding.

4. Understocking.


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