Does it pay to feed store cattle meal at grass prior to finishing?

Feeding store cattle meal at grass does not pay at current concentrate costs, according to Teagasc’s Edward O’Riordan.

The Teagasc Head of Beef Systems and Grassland said store cattle need to gain at least 0.4kg of liveweight each day to make meal feeding (4kg/day) at grass worthwhile.

O’Riordan said that at a meal cost of €250/t, it would cost €1 to gain 0.2-0.3kg of liveweight and at current cattle prices this would result in a loss to the farmer.

Speaking at Teagasc’s Beef 2016, he said that farmers should instead focus on getting as much grass as possible into store cattle diets.

However, he said some meal feeding may be needed on farms when there is a shortage of grass.

“Carcass growth response to concentrate supplementation at pasture is higher where grass supply is low and where grass quality is poorer,” he said.

Response to feeding store cattle 4kg of meal at grass:
  • Daily gain: +0.2-0.3kg/day
  • Kill out: +0.5-1.5%
  • Carcass: +35-40kg
  • Confirmation: +0.2-0.8 unit increase
  • Fat: 1.0-1.5 unit increase

O’Riordan said that beef producers should aim to increase animal performance from grazed grass, as this is the cheapest source of feed available on farm.

“There wouldn’t be as a high of a response to meal feeding if the grass was right on the farm,” he said.

He said that the economic sustainability of beef production systems depends on optimising the contribution of grazed grass to animal, while also providing silage and concentrates as efficiently as possible.