Go for cereal beef
MOST producers should focus their efforts on cereal beef production, as the live export debate continues to restrict calf marketing chances, Colin Maclean advised.
But it was essential the correct calves were used. Continental crosses from the dairy herd were ideal. Late-maturing Holstein Friesian bulls had to be taken to heavier weights but lower calf cost compensated for that (see table).
Bulls were preferred due to higher growth rates. Steers were about 10% less efficient. Only Charolais or Blonde dAquitaine cross heifers should be used, said Mr Maclean. He advised weaning calves at six weeks. Over that time each would have consumed 12.5kg of milk replacer. Concentrates and hay should be offered from two weeks, and at weaning calves should be eating 1kg of concentrate a day. Calves then move on to a rearing ration and hay or silage. A 0.7kg daily liveweight gain was possible for a 12-week-old calf weighing 100kg. The 17% protein cereal beef ration should be introduced gradually from 80kg to 100kg liveweight and after two to three weeks offered ad lib. The main component of the diet, which has an ME of 12.5MJ/kg DM, was usually barley, supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals.
Bull groups should be restricted to 20 animals or fewer, which should be matched for size and age. Ventilation, lighting, temperature, bedding and space requirements must be adhered to.
Producers gained considerable marketing advantages when beef was produced year round rather than restricted to short selling periods. There was less sensitivity to seasonal price lows and buyers paid premiums for level supply.
Breed standards for cereal beef from three months old
BreedHolsteinx Friesian/x Friesian
Reared calf (kg)110110115
Feeding period (weeks)363739
Daily gain (kg)18.104.22.168
Concentrates (t)1.71.6 1.9
Slaughter weight (kg)440450 490
Carcass weight (kg)235250270
Typical EU carcass classO+3R/-U3R/U-3