19 April 1996

More cash in change to 18-month beef?

BEEF producers currently running a 15-month silage bull beef system could find it more profitable to castrate calves and switch to 18-month finishing.

That will maximise grazed grass and cheap local by-products as the basis for winter diet, says Basil Lowman from the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh.

But bulls finishing on silage, which are over 12 months old, should be left entire. If castrated they would only recover their current weight by the end of June, says Dr Lowman.

Bulls under 12 months will be acclimatised to grazing by the end of this month following castration and withdrawing concentrates within two to three days.

"With good grassland management and an early start to supplementary concentrate feeding next August, cattle which are currently over nine months old could be finished off grass relatively cheaply next autumn," he says. Dr Lowman points out that intact bulls are most profitable when finished intensively, as they help to reduce feed costs a kg gain due to a slight benefit in terms of feed conversion efficiency.

"Any barley beef bull over six months old should be kept entire and finished as rapidly as possible," he advises.

"Castrating these older bulls now and turning them on to grass will cause a major check and they are unlikely to be any heavier now than at the end of July."

Barley beef bulls under six months old could be castrated and switched to a high roughage diet ready for turnout late this month. But they are likely to weigh under 400kg next autumn. Dr Lowman calculates that they will have been offered the same amount of food as if they had beenleft entire and reared on a barley beef system. &#42

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