According to the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), producers finishing last year’s spring-born bulls are currently moving them onto an ad-lib concentrate diet for the final 100-120 days before slaughter.

CAFRE beef technologist Nigel Gould said:

“Continental-bred bulls are generally changed when they are 200-250kg off final finished liveweight. This reduces to 150-200kg for traditional-bred bulls.

“When offering ad-lib concentrates, it is very important to gradually increase the level for up to three weeks at the start of the finishing period.

This gives the rumen time to adapt to the new diet and limits the risk of acidosis and laminitis.

Gould pointed out that split-feeding between morning and evening will also help the adaption period. A good source of forage fibre, such as straw or hay, is also advised to maintain a healthy rumen.

Weight gain

“A constant supply of fresh, clean water is key in maximising feed intake, which in turn will drive weight gain. A rule of thumb is that a bull requires 6L of water for every kg of ration consumed,” Gould added.

According to the CAFRE representative, a bull on an ad-lib concentrate diet will typically consume 10-12kg of concentrate per day.

“Ensure high quality ingredients such as barley and maize are the main components in the concentrate and that crude protein is in the range of 12-14%. To meet target fat scores a high energy content of 12.5-13 MJ/kg dry matter (DM) and a starch content of 35-40% is required in the final finishing ration.

It is also important for farmers to speak to their processor before deciding to finish males as young bulls, so as to ensure there is a market for their produce and that specifications can be agreed.

“Generally, processors prefer carcasses around 380kg and a fat score of three,” he added.

Check for lice

Gould also advised beef farmers to check their animals for lice.

“The most common sign to look out for is cattle licking themselves more than normal and showing signs of discomfort,” he said.

Anything causing discomfort can have a negative effect on cattle performance. A pour-on product is often the treatment of choice. But not all products provide treatment for both sucking and biting lice.

According to Gould, ivermectin-based injectable products are sometimes expected to control lice, however, this is really only the case for sucking lice.

“All animals in the shed need to be treated at the same time, otherwise lice from untreated animals will move to those already treated. Clipping the backs of cattle ensures the product makes contact with the skin as soon as possible,” he concluded.