27 September 1996

Over-30-month cattle: Risky to stint on rations

By Emma Penny

PRODUCERS must ensure they continue to feed cattle awaiting slaughter under the over-30-month scheme and consider over-wintering options.

The advice came from ADAS senior dairy business manager David Levick at last weeks European Dairy Event.

"Many producers will have cattle awaiting slaughter which will be on-farm for some time. Its crucial to continue feeding maintenance rations although it wont generate extra income. If cattle are allowed to lose condition, MAFF will come down on you like a ton of bricks."

According to Mr Levick, cull cattle could be maintained on silage alone, but there were cheaper options. "Many producers have little idea how much silage costs. At best, it costs £70t/DM, but it can cost as much as £120/t DM."

Straw was the cheapest option, but should be supplemented, he said. Maize gluten, trading at about £115/t, or wheat at £105/t were suitable supplements, while wet citrus pulp and other vegetable products were also widely available.

"Cattle will hold condition well on straw and potatoes. Currently trading at about £12/t – equivalent to £50-60/t DM – they are cheap and high in starch. Vegetables are another option, because many cold stores are full of beef this year and unable to take other produce."

Winter housing also needs to be considered now, he warned. With many herds carrying higher cow and heifer numbers, overcrowding inside could lead to mastitis, lameness, pneumonia and fertility concerns. Leave cull cattle at grass over winter and poaching coupled with lack of grass the next spring will impact on performance of the remaining productive cattle. "Cull cattle are a short-term problem, and must not be allowed to hamper future farm performance.

"Ideally, cull cattle should be wintered inside, but the second best options is to over-winter on concrete. When thats difficult, consider renting buildings from producers who have gone out of sheep, beef or dairying."

Producers should also take the opportunity offered by the cull scheme to remove passenger cows from the herd, he urged.

"Treat this as an opportunity to get rid of problem or low-yielding cows, whatever stage of lactation they are at."

This will release quota which can be used to reduce or avoid superlevy. Excess quota can be profitably leased, while for those producers already over quota, it reduces the need to buy or lease additional quota, said Mr Levick.

&#8226 Continue maintenance rations.

&#8226 Consider straw and potatoes.

&#8226 Examine over-wintering options options.