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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2009
CA TTLE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA YEARBOOK 2009 Nuffield Scholar Profile: Michael McKellar the topiC of Water mediCation I am not university educated but thanks to a Nuffield Scholarship I have been assisted to be universally educated. My wife Helen and I operate a medium size beef cattle breeding operation East of Augathella in South West Queensland. S tudying water medication has taken me to nine countries around the world only to find that Australia leads the way. No matter where we may farm it’s tough; short growing seasons, variable climates, animal welfare issues, world trade tariff barriers, customer perceptions and demands, among others, all impact on our business. Water medication has been an alternative in feeding nutrients to livestock for over 35 years and developments in the last decade with equipment, technology and adoption of the system has resulted in many producers using this management tool. Water medication is the supplying of dissolved nutrients that have been mechanically administered into the drinking water at a calculated dosage to supplement and enhance animal requirements. The basic principles behind the strategic use of nutritional supplements for beef cattle have now been well established and are accepted by most producers. Further, the benefits of supplementation, particularly with protein and phosphorus, have been extensively researched, are now clearly recognised and, consequently are routine management practices throughout much of the northern Australian beef industry. As a result of my scholarship, and in parallel, an intensive review of water medication was conducted by Meat and Livestock Australia. My report addresses many issues and is intended as a guide to other producers considering the implementation of a water medication system. Water medication does work and it can be a very cost effective supplementation method for feeding Non Protein Nitrogen (NPN) and other nutrients. Strategic feeding of supplement can greatly improve the performance of livestock and maximise pasture utilisation low in nutrients. In northern Australia’s native and improved pastures the major limiting nutrients are protein and energy in the dry/winter season and Phosphorus (P) in the summer/ wet season. When livestock producers are using water medication to feed supplement they need to be aware of the water quality issues, the chemical interaction between what products they are mixing and the water they are using, the solubility of the products, the sheeting 82 or striping and absorption characteristics of products. All these factors greatly affect the efficiency of the supplementation method when diluting and feeding to livestock. Producers also need to be aware of commercial biases and misleading information. My recommendation to anyone who is using or intending to use water medication is: research what you want to achieve, analyse your resources and monitor your results. Be prepared to change and be prepared to shut the system down from time to time to get up to speed with new developments. The purpose of my Nuffield report is to highlight to producers considering either implementing a water medication system or those who are already using this system, how to improve and question why they are doing certain things. Report link: www.nuffield.com.au/report_f/2003/ McKellar%20Michael%20report.pdf Water supplementation has huge potential in Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australia as 50% of Australia’s cattle are in northern Australia. Western Queensland has a great underground water resource in the great artesian basin. Numerous bores tap into the sub artesian and the artesian basin, over the years many bores have and are currently being reconditioned. This involves re-casing the bore hole, capping the water flow and piping the water to watering points. This improves the water use efficiency by a ratio of a 100:1. The piping of water and controlled watering has provided an opportunity for producers to equip these systems with water medicators, feeding urea and trace elements cost effectively to livestock. Small increments of improvements in production are worth millions of dollars to the bottom line of beef producers collectively. Michael McKellar Nuffield Scholar Water Medication 1117_CCA Yearbook 2009.indd 82 5/5/09 8:01:43 PM