14 February 1997

Weighing key to steady growth

REGULAR weighing is the key to sustaining steady growth in stores.

At Warter Estates, steers and heifers are reared for sale as stores at the estates traditional annual sale on May 7, with a target growth rate of 1kg from birth.

Steers and heifers are creep fed from mid-August and then offered silage two weeks pre-housing in November. This lets the cattle get used to the full winter diet before it is offered, so reducing the risk of any growth checks. Stores are also treated for pneumonia while still at grass to further limit any checks at housing resulting from stress.

Steers weigh 325-300kg and heifers about 300kg at housing when they are grouped according to sex and weight, and receive high quality 70 D-value silage ad lib plus 2kg of concentrate.

"Silage is pushed up twice a day so the cattle are stimulated to feed and enough trough space allowed, so that when concentrates are offered twice daily all cattle can feed at once," says farm manager John Bonas.

"All stores are then weighed every 30 days. It is vital to know exactly how these animals are performing to adjust rations and manipulate growth rates."

The estate uses an electronic weigher with a hand-held computer which stores the weight, and when downloaded on to the office computer calculates growth rates and predicts future liveweight gains.

During the winter this routine showed growth rates had fallen due to an outbreak of pneumonia.

"Because we weigh so freq-uently we can raise concentrates and regain our target growth before the cattle have lost too much condition. This avoids the need to push the cattle too hard on a high concentrate diet and cuts the risk of digestive disorders," explains Mr Bonas. &#42