Check liveweight gains are on target for profit
BEEF producers are advised to check cattle are performing to daily liveweight gain targets set at housing to ensure that the profit potential of each animal is being realised.
Many dairy-bred and suckled calves and stores bought in the late summer and autumn last year have profit potential provided performance is kept on target, says Dalgety beef consultant, David Allen.
"It will pay to spend a fine winters morning weighing the cattle to establish average weight, daily gains and variability within the pen," he says. "Rations will need revising when gains have drifted off course."
It will also make sense to check forage stocks to ensure sufficient is in store to carry through the intended feeding plan. Dr Allen advises measuring length, width and average height of the clamp, and calculating the amount of silage – given that the density of 20% dry matter material will be 0.73t/cu m or for 25% DM silage, 0.66t/cu m.
Dr Allen believes many producers will find that daily gains in finishing cattle are below target.
"It is necessary to increase supplementation to make up the deficit and get them back on course," he advises. "Dont forget that for each extra kg of concentrate dry matter fed, there is a reduction in silage intake averaging about 0.4kg DM. To allow for this when calculating rations, for example for a good quality 12 ME concentrate fed with 10.5 ME silage, Dr Allen advises assuming a net increase of 7.8 ME intake for every kg concentrate dry matter fed.
"For Continental cross steers weighing 400kg and gaining around 1kg/day that amount of ME would be sufficient to lift gain by about 0.1kg/day." (see table).
Extra concentrates could also be fed when forage supplies are tight for finishing cattle to increase daily gains so that animals reach market weight sooner.
"The reduction in the feeding period brings a considerable saving in silage requirements at the cost of a relatively small increase in the total quantity of concentrates fed," says Dr Allen.
"At the other end of the scale, it is important not to over-feed store cattle due to be grazed next year. Increasing gains above 0.8kg/day for Continental cross steers or above 0.6kg for heifers and British cross steers, not only adds unnecessarily to winter feed costs but also reduces compensatory gains at grass."
Dr Allen also warns that cattle fed all-concentrate rations such as barley beef, are ultra sensitive to the level of daily gain achieved. "Sub-standard gains add expensive extra days to the feeding period," he says. "Keep a sharp look-out for anything that may detract from peak performance. Ensure clean water is available, remove soiled feed from hoppers and watch for pneumonia." *
It could pay to check cattle are performing to daily liveweight gain targets.
Specimen finishing rations for Continental cross steers
Daily Liveweight (kg)
gain (kg)Feeds (kg/day) 400500Days/100kg gain
Feeds: Silage – 25% DM, 10.5 ME
Concentrate – 12 ME, 16% crude protein
• Is performance in line with daily lw gain targets?
• Rations may need revising when gains off course.
• Is sufficient forage in store to meet feed needs?