Finishing cattle efficiently this winter

Finishing cattle during the winter can be marginal business; however, current markets are looking more positive with demands strengthening in marts and prices starting to creep upwards in factories.

As soon as a farmer makes a decision to finish cattle they must set clear performance targets for them so as to maximise the full potential of the herd.

So what are the key factors that a farmer must establish?

  1. Current liveweight of animals;
  2. Target market of the livestock;
  3. Target finish / carcass weight required by chosen market;
  4. Confirmation requirements of chosen market;
  5. Forage quality;
  6. Feed budget.

When feeding cattle in sheds it is essential that the best use is made of the forage so having adequate feeding space and suitable feed barriers, farmers must ensure animals are managed in a safe environment – the farmer’s health and safety should always be paramount.

By making the process of feeding cattle simpler, it will make it much more efficient long term. Good ventilation and a clean fresh water supply are also critical to achieving performance goals.

Quinns recommends making a feed plan for the animals and restrict high concentrate feeding to the final finishing period; i.e. 100 days for steers and heifers and up to 200 days for bulls. In general, the highest daily liveweight gains are achieved over a short finishing period.

Forage quality will determine the amount of meals required to be fed in conventional cattle feeding systems. Quinns will organise having your silage tested in its lab in Baltinglass and the farmer will receive a comprehensive analysis report with a recommended feed plan.

Table 1: Recommended concentrated feeding levels based on silage DMD and feeding silage ad lib (SAL) for finishing continental beef stock

Once forage quality is determined your focus then is on the concentrate required to balance the forage. Energy is the most limiting nutrient in beef diets – always check the energy content of the concentrate.

Quinns Supreme Maize Beef which is available in both coarse ration and pelleted form is a well proven formulation over a number of years with customers achieving excellent results from it.

It is a high energy ration (0.98UFV); the energy is derived from Irish barley and maize and Quinns includes a combination of beet pulp and soya hulls to provide fibre. The overall crude protein of the formulation is 12%. The formulation includes Quinns’ own unique RumiGain mineral, vitamin and additive package.

Many farmers are under the impression that finishing animals don’t need mineral supplementation; this is proven time and time again to be false. Basic mineral elements such as calcium, phosphorus and sodium are essential for basic functions such as saliva production for rumen buffering.

Mineral and vitamins also help to manufacture vital enzymes which aid proper feed digestion and will encourage stronger animal performance and feed efficiency.

Trace minerals, such as copper and zinc, play essential roles in many metabolic processes supporting animal health.

Copper deficiency can cause many issues, such as poor growth, impaired immunity, diarrhoea and depigmentation. When analysing the diet, looking not only at copper content but also sulphur, molybdenum and iron content is recommended, as these minerals can interfere with copper’s intestinal absorption.

Zinc deficiency can lead to skin trauma, impaired growth and lameness issues. Zinc is particularly important in beef cattle production, due to the high growth rate and increased stress on the claws of the hoof.

Compared with inorganic forms, feeding these trace minerals in an organic form makes the mineral more bioavailable, creating a reserve for times of increased physiological need; meaning these organic minerals go to work, not to waste.

The RumiGain mineral range contains Bioplex® Copper and Zinc from Alltech. These are organic chelated minerals that are highly bioavailable and have been proven to support animal health, such as hoof health.

Yea-Sacc® is a live yeast culture from Alltech that has consistently been proven to help rumen function by stimulating bacteria that utilise fibre and lactic acid. This reduces the risk of acidosis and leads to more efficient total digestion of both forage and feed.

Published trials have shown that Yea-Sacc can:

  1. Maximise daily liveweight gain (increase DLG by 12%)*;
    • Optimise system to finish cattle faster;
    • Faster finishing improves carcass quality;
  2. Produce beef cheaper (7% increase in feed efficiency)*;
    • Offset increased feed costs;
    • More beef from the same feed;
  3. Produce higher grades (12% increase in carcass weights)*;
    • More carcass = more profit/hd;
    • Increased carcass grading = increased profitability.

*Average of results from:

Teagasc Research Centre, Ireland, Fallon, Earley, 2004;
Harper Adams University, UK, Marsh, Kneale, Wilde, 2005;
Institute for Ruminant R&D, Romania, Gurita, 2007.

For more information of maximising performance of finishing cattle this winter, please contact Quinns of Baltinglass on: 059–6481266; or email: [email protected].