Silage quality is the key driver of performance for beef cattle

Beef finishers must take full account of silage quality as they plan their winter feeding programmes, according to Gain Feeds’ technical specialist Liam Stack.

“There are significant variations in the quality of silage available to beef finishers at the present time, with some broad trends now becoming discernible,” he said.

“Quite a number of first cuts taken in late May were made during a period of unsettled weather. As a consequence, dry matters are quite low. These forages are also quite acidic.

“First cuts made during the first week of June are of slightly better quality with DMD values in the range 65 to 75. However, there is good evidence to show that second cut silages made on Irish farms this yearare of much better quality.”

Stack went on to confirm that a silage test is the only way of confirming forage quality.

“The good news is that cattle performed well at grass this year and, from what I can gather, have continued to perform accordingly post housing,” he commented.

“As a rule of thumb, finishing bullocks on a 70 DMD silage and offered 6 kilos of concentrate per day will put on 1 kilo of liveweight per head on a daily basis. An extra kilo of meal will be required to achieve the same level of performance if silages have a DMD value in the region of 65.

“Available energy is the key driver for beef cattle in the run up to slaughter. So feeding meals with a protein level of between 13% and 15% will be more than adequate.

The Gain representative confirmed that straights, such as barley and wheat, represent good value for money at the present time. But he issued a note of caution when it comes to feeding excessive amounts of these ingredients to beef cattle.

“This can lead to problems associated with acidosis,” he said.

“And, of course, the fact that a significant proportion of the silages available to beef finishers this year are quite acidic in nature will accentuate these risks.”

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