The winter period is an expensive time from beef farmers. Not alone are the margins tight, but the inclement weather conditions during the summer months resulted in poorer and smaller amounts of winter feed being made.

Therefore, it is essential that all rations fed to cattle are utilised. Ensuring that both feed intake and growth potential are maximised is key when it comes to efficiency and profit.

According to Teagasc, inadequate feed intake is more likely to occur with silage-based diets than with high-concentrate diets.

This could be due to problems with the silage itself – such as low digestibility and poor preservation. It could also occur due to poor management in relation to feeding systems.

Insufficient feed space or irregular feeding, leading to a lack of feed for a period or too much being available at any one time, will lead to stale silage and heating due to prolonged exposure to air.

Also Read: Do you have enough space for your cattle this winter?

When animals are on a high level of feed or are being fed ad-lib, it is essential that troughs are kept clean at all times.

When feeding a mixed ration, stale or uneaten mixes should be removed before fresh feed is placed in the troughs.

The main intake problem that occurs on ad-lib concentrate diets is acidosis (overeating sickness). This often occurs when concentrates are introduced too quickly or when animals over consume a high-starch ration.

When ad-lib feeding systems are being utilised, it’s important to ensure you have adequate supplies of concentrates. Failing to do so could result in your cattle gorging themselves – and potential becoming sick – when meals are reintroduced.

Furthermore, it’s critical that an adequate roughage (a long, high-fibre roughage is best) and a supply of fresh, clean water is available at all times.

It must be noted that cattle will sometimes reduce meal intake when put on a new batch or if the formulation changes.

Ensuring concentrate storage facilities are free from vermin is also essential. Vermin and birds that have access to feeding troughs can spoil feed and, therefore, affect intake.