3 April 1998

Beef sucklers on the scales

BEEF cross suckler cows support an additional 240g a day calf liveweight gain compared with pure-bred Charolais cows due to higher milk yields.

This was the finding of a study at Grange Research Centre, Co Meath, Ireland, comparing the voluntary intake of grass silage and performance of spring calving Charolais (CH) and beef cross (Hereford and Limousin) Friesian (BF) sucklers and their progeny during the winter.

Research recognises that the increased retention of home-bred herd replacements will result in a greater proportion of Continental breeds – mainly Charolais – in the suckler herd.

Twenty CH and 36 BF cows were fed ad lib grass silage. Cow liveweights and condition scores were monitored regularly and calving difficulties and calf birth weights recorded. Silage intakes and milk yields of 30 early calving cows were also recorded.

Similar silage intakes for both breeds suggest that the energy requirements of the much larger CH cow are only slightly higher than the BF cow. But performance of the CH progeny was lower than that of the BF cows due to lower milk yields – 6.6kg a day for the CH cows compared with 9.1kg a day for the BFs. The higher milk yield of the BF cows translated into higher calf liveweight gains – 695g a day for CH progeny compared with 935g a day for BF progeny. Thats an additional 240g a day for BF calves, or 40kg over an 180-day suckling period.