Target weights achieved in the ‘short-grass county’

By Teagasc Green Acres Programme advisor James Fitzgerald

Farming on the Kildare/Carlow border, just outside Castledermot, Peter Byrne and his family run a dairy calf-to-beef operation in conjunction with a small suckler-to-beef enterprise.

Additionally, a proportion of the farm is allocated to tillage every year. Peter, who is a participant in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme, purchases Friesian, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford calves each year.

All farms participating in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme are monitoring performance through weighing on at least three occasions throughout the year – turnout, mid-season and housing.

In recent weeks, the mid-season weighing of all the cattle on Peter’s farm was completed, with results used to gauge the performance from birth to July for the calves and from turnout to July for the older cattle.

If cattle underperform, it may result in delays at slaughter or the introduction of additional concentrates to get the animal over the line at finish; both of which have negative impacts on the cost of production at farm level.

Starting with the 2020 spring-born calves, the males have an average birth date of February 7.

When these were weighed, they averaged 157kg and had an average daily gain (ADG) of 0.78kg from birth to weighing – based on an estimated average birth weight of 40kg.

These calves are well on target to reach the targeted housing weight on November 1 of 220kg and need to achieve just 0.54kg ADG between now and then to reach this target.

It is expected that this target will be surpassed comfortably and that the male calves will be well ahead of the target at housing time.

Moving to their female counterparts, the spring-born heifer calves have an average date of birth of February 18 and weighed 128kg in early July.

This is equivalent to an ADG of 0.67kg when an average birth weight of 35kg is assumed. The heifer calves need to achieve an ADG of 0.7kg between now and November 1 to reach their targeted housing weight of 210kg.

Again, the animals are showing strong signs of achieving this target.

Looking at the older animals on the holding, the spring of 2019 born males are almost exactly at the targeted weight set for them for the mid-season of their second year.

They have an average weight of 406kg (weighed on July 6) and have had an ADG of 0.92kg since turnout.

The target for these cattle was to weigh 402kg on July 1. The next target for these cattle is to weigh 510kg at housing on November 1.

On the other hand, the spring 2019-born heifers are just shy of the 402kg target – weighing 396kg on July 6, having had an ADG of 1.05kg since turnout.

The target for an Angus/Hereford heifer that is to be slaughtered at 20 months-of-age is to weigh 465kg at the start of their finishing period on September 15, so an ADG of 0.97kg will be needed for these heifers to reach this target.