Get weight on efficiently

Making a profit from finishing cattle requires getting many things right.

The challenge as always is to get weight on animals as efficiently as possible.

This involves many issues, such as maintaining animal health; minimising mortality; feeding a good quality, high energy diet; achieving consistent weight gain throughout the allotted finishing period; providing a comfortable environment; etc, etc, etc.

Efficient production is the priority when finishing cattle. Obviously, feed costs are very important, but more important, it must be the correct feed.

Once you start finishing cattle, it is critical to keep them on the same diet throughout. Changing your feed supplier to give everyone a turn may seem like a good idea, but each formulation is slightly different, and may reduce digestive efficiency.

Loose Cattle

In the last few weeks I have seen a lot of finishing cattle in sheds with either very loose dungs and/or with a lot of grain passing through in the dung.

Un-rolled grain is hardly ever the reason, instead it is because the diet is not balanced correctly. Another reason is that all animals cannot eat at the one time, if meal is being put on top of silage.

In TMR (total mixed ration) diets, if the mix is very dry, individual animals will attempt to sort out the meal from the forages.

This will lead to animals having variable dung consistency, although they are on the same diet. Some cattle will be looser than others; these are usually the ones eating too much concentrates and less forage. Cattle with firmer dungs are mostly the ones forced to eat a much higher proportion of forage.

In order to reduce the issues causing variable dung consistency and undigested material, it is important to take the variability out of feeding your stock. This will involve providing access to feed for all animals when concentrates are fed. With a TMR, it may require the mix to be made moister, in order to prevent sorting. Water, liquid feeds and molasses are being used to solve this problem on many farms this year. Many silages are very dry, and cattle on many farms are finding it easier to “sort” the TMR, as a result.

Many still associate loose dungs with feeding too much protein. This is very seldom the case; actually, most are under-feeding protein, even to finishers.

Feed Variability

Cattle thrive best when they are fed the same diet at the same time each day.

As I mentioned, changing feed supplier may sometimes seem a good idea. However, each time you change your concentrate, the animals too have to change their rumen bug population to suit the new mix.

This results in reduced performance during the transition. My advice is to stick to one supplier, once finishers are settled on their diet. Apart from when you might introduce maize meal near the end of the finishing period to get the final cover, no other changes should be necessary.

Efficient feed delivery

Many 2013 silages have a high pH, due to their high dry matter. As a result, they are going off much quicker in the pit, and in front of stock. With this in mind, it is critical to keep feed fresh for finishing cattle. This will require feeding this type of silage daily — whether ad lib or in a TMR. In order to achieve the desired thrive, you must optimise feed intake, and you certainly won’t achieve this with stale, unpalatable feed.

If you don’t manage intake, you haven’t a hope of managing output.


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