4 September 1998

Finishing time means decision time on feeds

By FWlivestock reporters

THE need to finish stock for market ahead of winter housing should decide which cattle and sheep should receive supplements to counter falling grass quality.

Thurso-based SAC adviser David Birkbeck, says thats particularly the case for northern producers with poor quality grazing. Cattle are up to 30kg lighter than last year meaning many may fail to achieve target finishing weights.

Slowly introducing up to 4kg barley/head/day (8.8lb/head/day) should allow 480-520kg steers and 440-480kg heifers to reach target finishing weights before housing. Lighter cattle can be kept on this regime, but only where they can be housed at the end of the grazing season for winter finishing, says Mr Birkbeck.

Where housing is restricted, lighter cattle should be sold as forward stores, but some supplementary feeding will help maintain condition: "Feed can be cut back to 2kg/head/day as its unlikely theyll make good money."

Exeter-based Signet consultant Rob Shields says although grass quality is generally better than in the north, lowland stores will also need supplementing and should be introduced to 1kg concentrate/head/day (2.2lb/head/day), rising to 2kg/head/day (4.4lb/head/day) by early October.

Where barley isnt readily available, consider alternative feeds, suggests Mr Birkbeck. Draff, dark grains or sugar beet pulp, when sourced locally, can be cost effective alternatives when bought in bulk.

Cotswold-based sheep consultant Alistair Bird says prime lamb finishers must also consider supplements. Where lambs are weaned on to hay aftermaths or returned to permanent pasture, and grass quality is poor, introduce a home-mix or 16% protein proprietary concentrate to boost growth rates.

"A 4:1 barley:soya mix is fine. Where youre worried about digestive disorders, substitute one part barley for sugar beet pulp nuts. Introduce it slowly over a fortnight to avoid acidosis, increasing to 400g/head/day. Thereafter, increase to 600g/day split into two feeds," he advises.

He also suggests pulling out the top 20% of lambs, typically Mule x Suffolk lambs at 36kg liveweight, to push through to finish first. This means theres no commitment to finishing all lambs at once, spreading risk of having to accept a low finished price.

However, producers with good quality aftermaths or grazing, lucerne or clover leys should be able to finish lambs without supplements, he says.

Maintaining worming and vaccination programmes, for example pasteurella and clostridia boosters in lambs, will ensure lambs finish.

"Lambs should finish in four weeks, costing £3/head where concentrate is £100/t," he says.

Feed decisions

&#8226 Will target weight be met?

Can stock finish indoors?

Split finishing regimes

Maintain routine health tasks

FEED DECISIONS

&#8226 Will target weight be met?

&#8226 Can stock finish indoors?

&#8226 Split finishing regimes

&#8226 Maintain routine health tasks