7 June 2002

Blueprint for heifer beef

ADOPTING an Irish blueprint for heifer beef production can increase income by £20 a head as more animals match target slaughter specifications.

Only 23% of heifers produced in the UK meet abattoir specifications, said Keenan beef specialist Donald Brown. "This equates to a £20/head loss in income and represents a loss of 10,000t of beef, currently being made up by imports."

But a group of 150 Irish producers in the Keenan Kepak Beef Club have adopted a blueprint to produce a more consistent product. By following this plan, 87% of producers are reaching target liveweight and specifications for their markets.

"To achieve this, calves should be reared to maximise weights when weaned at about seven months old. Most club members routinely offer a creep feed before weaning with a high rumen bypass protein content."

After weaning, heifers are taken to about 455kg liveweight over a 16-month period. Weight gain should be kept constant at about 0.9kg/day. There is no store period.

"During the growing phase, rations should be high in protein and fibre with a moderate metabolisable energy content of 10.7MJ/kg to minimise fat deposition. Plenty of minerals are also important, with at least 1% calcium for skeletal growth."

The finishing stage should be a short, sharp period of 60 days, not long and drawn out. Minimising the days on a finishing ration will keep costs down. Weight gains should be higher during the finishing period at 1.4kg/day with a target bodyweight of 540kg.

By regular monitoring of bodyweight, producers can predict when heifers should go on the finishing ration. This has to be adjusted to frame size, as larger framed animals will need earlier finishing, while smaller breeds, such as Angus and Hereford, may achieve the target weight without a finishing period.

Finishing rations should have a protein content of 13-15% and a high energy level with more than 33% starch and sugars, said Mr Brown.

The finishing phase for beef heifers should be less than 60 days, says Donald Brown.

&#8226 Meet slaughter spec.

&#8226 Consistent growing phase.

&#8226 Short finishing period.