The winter period is an expensive time for beef farmers. Not alone are the margins tight, but the dry weather conditions during the summer months may have resulted in smaller amounts of winter feed being saved.

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

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 methods. It is important not to waste valuable silage over the winter.

Also Read: Now that I’m feeding silage, how do I minimise waste?

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.

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. This often occurs when concentrates are introduced too quickly or when animals overconsume a high-starch ration.

Autumn-2017 born bulls – aimed to be finished under-16 months – will be fed ad-lib concentrates over the coming weeks and when these 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 potentially 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.