Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer, DEDJTR

ROUGHAGES are the bulky feeds that are considered as being high in fibre and low in energy.
The common types of roughages for most livestock are pasture grasses and other grazed forages; hay and dehydrated forages; silage from grasses, legumes or cereal crops; and crop residues and crop by-products such as straw, stubble, and hulls.
With the new growth of pasture and various supplementary feeds that could be given, you could ask – why is there a need to feed roughage?
Roughage will be needed this winter for any of the following reasons, including:
• For digestive function, livestock require a minimum amount of fibre and long roughage to maintain their digestive systems. This is sometimes known as the ‘scratch factor’ and stimulates rumination (cud chewing);
• When moving livestock onto green pasture their rumen needs time to adjust to a new feed type;
• Newly growing pasture may not have adequate fibre levels, therefore it may be better to supplement stock to allow the pasture to establish and develop;
• Hungry cattle need to be prevented from gorging themselves on pastures that may have potential to cause nitrate poisoning or bloat;
• If feeding grain or pellets with too little roughage acidosis or grain poisoning can occur; and
• As we move further into winter, hay may be needed to reduce grass tetany risks and allows a way of administering Causmag.
Another key reason to feed roughage is it helps keep livestock warm since the fermentation and breakdown of cellulose creates heat energy.
If livestock don’t have enough roughage, the weight will melt off as they consume body fat to create energy for warmth.
Feeding roughage to your livestock late in the afternoon will provide ‘heat’ through the night.
For further information, contact your local veterinarian or DEDJTR animal health or extension staff.