Consider supplementary feed to avoid under-finished cattle

With reports of an increasing number of under-finished cattle going to slaughter, producers should consider providing supplementary feed at grass to avoid losing out on carcass weight and price.

Selling under weight cattle is a wasted opportunity, says EBLEX livestock scientist, Mary Vickers.

“Killing out percent will be lower in underfed cattle grazed on poor pastures – producers need to monitor market signals in terms of demand for finished cattle, and ensure they provide well-finished cattle which meet target fat classifications.”

Bringing cattle inside early to finish is an option, but is more expensive than finishing outside. Producers should therefore consider supplementary feeding for grazed cattle to maintain growth rates and get cattle finished as planned.

“Supplementary feeding can also bring forward marketing for some bigger animals which will reduce pressure on limited winter forage supplies.” Buffer feeding is advisable, as it will give sward heights a chance to recover following recent rainfall.

“Finishing continental cross steers and heifers off grass will require supplementary feeding at a rate of 0.5-1.0kg of concentrate for every 100kg liveweight where sward heights are below 7cm.”

In the case of finishing cattle, grazing could simply be supplemented with rolled barley, as they do not have a high protein requirement at this stage.

With cereal and straw prices likely to be relatively expensive this winter, and many producers having less winter forage than normal, finishing cattle off grass this autumn may be their best option, she says.