You're gonna come across bullsh*t wherever you are, but this is something much better.....cow sh*t!
There's lots of information waiting in the humble cow pat, you just need to find it.
If you like driving around the paddock looking at cattle (like I do) this is one of the best jobs ever. First, find a mob of cattle that are camped up, disturb their slumber just enough that they start to walk away quietly and then wait and watch. One of the first things cattle do after a nap is defecate, and that's what you're waiting for. Scoop a couple of spoonfuls out of the middle of that cow pat, being careful not to mix dirt and dust with your sample. Collect a number of samples from your paddock, mix them all together in a container (ice cream containers work well for carting around), spread the contents out on a tray and dry slowly in the oven. Fill out a detailed questionnaire on your vegetation type, cattle type and condition etc and send both poo and paperwork off to be analyzed using Near lnfrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS).
Some of the information you get back can include whether your cattle are phosphorus deficient, how much dirt they are eating (which indicates how close to the ground they are grazing), how much browse they're eating, how much forage nitrogen, energy and protein is available for them, and how digestible their current diet is. All of which can guide some of your husbandry decisions.
We took part in a 12 month project some years ago, and through that, with the help of our local DPI beef extension officer, came up with the supplement recipe we still use.
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