More cost effective options of growing youngstock available

At the recent store cattle show and sale in Bandon Mart, Michael Quill, Terelton, Macroom, accepting the prize for the best pen of Continental bullocks from Neil O'Riordan; Jim O'Flynn, Crowley Mills, prize sponsor; and mart chairman Donal Kelly.

Thankfully, concentrates costs are much lower than they were last winter.

Coupled with this, silage results continue to come back far better than in 2012.

This will result in more cost effective animal performance.

This time last year, most livestock farmers wanted to know how they could feed as little meal as possible.

This year, they still want cost effective diets, but appreciate the value of the extra perfor mance that can be gained by balancing their silage with a good quality balanced concentrate.

The first thing that should be done on all farms is to set targets for each group of stock. Be realistic with target weight gains/growth rates for each group.

On the other hand, don’t accept substandard performance, just because it would be cheaper.

It is much cheaper to put weight on younger animals than it is with older animals.

Older and bigger animals divert much more of their food to maintenance before gaining weight.

What targets are realistic?


It is realistic on any beef farm to set targets for weanlings at around 0.8-1kg per day. This will obviously depend on sex, with bulls doing slightly better, and heifers doing less.

Protein and digestible fibres should be included in any growing blend, to promote efficient frame growth.

In all production systems, it is vital to have a period devoted to frame growth, to avoid low weights and over-fat carcasses. The period between seven months and 18 months is when the animal is capable of the best frame growth. Putting on 75mm (three inches) more height during this period will result in at least 25-30 kg of more carcass weight.


The target gain you set out for your finishers should be based on your target market in terms of grade, carcass weight and age. Keep in mind also that animals should have grown sufficient frame before they are finished.

Continental bulls in their finishing period have the potential to gain up to 2 kg per day. However, for most steers and heifers, an average of 1-1.3kg per day over the entire finishing period is achievable.

Don’t underfeed protein. With all cereals being such good value this year. there could be a tendency to feed very little else to cattle. All feeds need careful balancing. in order to achieve desired performance. Under feeding of protein, in particular, is not a good strategy, because most silages (even those produced in 2013) have a low protein percentage. Let’s look at the reasons why you shouldn’t under feed protein.

¦ Protein encourages intake, which improves performance. Poor intakes will result in under-performance.

¦ Rumen bugs require sufficient protein to efficiently digest nutrients.

¦ Protein is a major factor in promoting frame growth.

¦ Animals on a finishing diet will not flesh properly if they are deficient in protein.

Traditional Practices

On many farms, the common practice has been to feed a beef nut/blend to growing weanlings. However, this is not always ideal. These mixes are generally about 16% protein, and at lower levels, will rarely balance grass silage sufficiently for growing stock.

Average silage proteins in Ireland in 2013 are running at around 12-13%. As a result, a standard beef blend fed at the usual 1.5-2 kg will not provide sufficient protein for growth.

Many protein sources are available to boost the total protein intake in stock. It is important to find the one which suits your system best.

As we all know, protein is expensive this year relative to energy sources, but it is an essential element in order to promote optimum rumen function and animal performance.

It is also critical for young-stock that the source of protein is a quality one which is utilisable by the animals.

¦ Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at


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