Will your store cattle hit the target this winter?

The winter period is well on its way, in most parts of the country, and farmers are busy feeding cattle that have been housed for the winter months.

Along with feeding cows, weanlings and finishers, many farmers feed store cattle with the intention of finishing them off grass the following year.

Stores – normally heifers and steers – are fattened off grass with the aim to be slaughtered under 30-months-of-age. Farmers should aim to keep feed costs as low as possible and exploit compensatory growth at pasture during the following grazing season.

Compensatory growth occurs when animals have a plentiful supply of high-quality feed (usually grass) available after a period of restricted intake/growth.

This allows animals that get a limited diet over the winter to gain weight rapidly in spring / early summer. Naturally, the earlier cattle are turned out to grass the following spring, the greater the potential for compensatory growth.

However, during the winter period, the diet of stores is different to weanling and finishing stock.

Also Read: At what rate should you be supplementing your cattle at this winter?

Research has shown the response to concentrate supplementation for stores is lower than for weanlings. In addition, compensatory growth at pasture is generally greater and can exceed 1kg live-weight per day.

According to Teagasc, the target daily live weight gain during the housed period is 0.5kg/day for heifers and 0.7kg/day for steers.

cattle

Similar to weanlings and finishing cattle, the level of concentrate supplementation for store cattle in winter depends on silage quality. However, the challenging weather conditions experienced in Ireland during the summer may have resulted in poorer-quality silage being made.

For example, store cattle on moderate-quality silage of 65% dry matter digestibility (DMD), should be fed 2kg of meal per head per day.

cattle

According to Teagasc, concentrates should be front-loaded when animals go into the shed and gradually reduced four-to-five weeks before turnout to grass in the spring.

As cattle go from a diet of grass to silage at housing, the extra concentrate is fed to make the changeover as easy as possible. This will mean the cattle keep thriving and gaining weight in the shed.

In addition, concentrates for stores should have a high-energy value and a crude protein content of 14%. The ration should also include minerals and vitamins.

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