Don’t rush beef finishing this autumn

Weighing and sorting finishing cattle into appropriate groups at housing will be even more vital this autumn after the poor quality of grass this summer.

Independent beef consultant David Hendy says finishing cattle shouldn’t be pushed too hard immediately after housing in a bid to make up for poor growth rates at grass this summer.

“Undoubtedly cattle in general will be a lot lighter on grass this year because of the lack of energy. So it is even more important to get them weighed and record condition, so you can plan what to feed. Although weighing takes time, the effort will pay off in targeting the correct diet to the right animal,” says Mr Hendy.

“When cattle are 50kg light after grass, patience will be a virtue, as pushing too hard too early will lay down fat too quickly. Ideally, cattle should start to be fed now on rolled cereals to get some energy in, starting on about 12MJ/kg of dry matter energy slowly increasing to 12.5MJ after a few weeks,” he adds.

Mr Hendy also warns farmers to be aware of the mycotoxin risk in damp, mouldy cereal. “And when feeding treated cereals it is also important to supplement minerals, as they are often low in vitamin E,” he adds. “A deficiency in just one mineral will impair performance, so feeding the right mineral mix is paramount.”

He advises farmers to have forage analysed, particularly due to the variation this year. “Be aware of wet forages. When dry matter content is low mix with dry rolled cereals,” he says.

Many alternative feed options are still heavily priced against cereals, which are down below £100/t. But Mr Hendy suggests stock feed potatoes as a good option. “Stock feed potatoes are palatable and high in energy, making a great finishing feed. They should be included in the ration at 4.5kg potatoes for 1kg cereals.”

But with many farmers aiming at finishing cattle at the Christmas market, there are concerns they may not see the usual peak in prices.

Because beef markets are already going through a well-needed price restructure, it is unknown whether there will be the increase in price normally associated with the Christmas trade this year, says SAC beef consultant Gavin Hill.

“Cattle supply has been short lately and as many producers target to market cattle in late October/early November, so increasing supply, then it could be hard to envisage any further increase from current levels,” says Dr Hill.

Finishing beef

  • Don’t rush feeding
  • Analyse forage
  • Supplement treated grain with minerals

Finishing cattle being brought in after a summer on poor grass shouldn’t be pushed too much too soon or they risk laying down fat too early.