Advice for beef farmers: Don’t just hope animals do well on pasture

Most weanlings are not yet out grazing, but they soon will be, hopefully.

Managing young stock on grass should be determined by their current weight, sex, and target market.

Set goals for each group now, and aim to review their performance regularly.

However, depending on a good year, with good growth, and hoping animals will do well on grass, is not a plan.

Initially, at turn out, the most important things to monitor are grass intake, animal health and rumen fill.

The final destination of stock — whether finishing, storing or replacements — must determine feeding and management strategies.

Finishing at 20-24 months next winter

These cattle need good quality grass throughout the grazing season to achieve optimum frame growth.

This efficient frame growth will allow you to finish them effectively once housed next winter.

Bulls for finish this summer

Firstly do you have a market for them at finish?

Ask your buyer what carcass weight, age and confirmation limits apply.

The answers to these questions will help you to set goals and establish budgets for the stock.

These animals are currently 12-14 months old, and if you intend on killing them at less than 16 months, perhaps they should not go to grass at this stage.

For those being killed for the autumn market, quality grass can achieve high gains, and about 100-120 days before target finish, meal will need to be introduced, either on grass or as an indoor diet.

Suckler replacements

Firstly, the breeding season for spring herds has begun, so keep these heifers in a positive energy status, to achieve high conception rates.

Heifers you intend to calf down next spring should currently be 370 kg or heavier.

They must be at 85-90% of a mature cow’s weight, and within two inches of a mature cow height, at the shoulder, at calving.

To achieve this, the heifers must grow 0.75-0.8 kg every day of their life, to be 600 kg plus at calving.

Behind target stock

Not all animals in your system will be at the desired weight or height.

This may be due to illness as calves or being born later in the calving season.

These cattle will respond very well to supplementation at grass, which will help them to catch up to the target group.

Younger animals are more efficient converters of concentrates.

If these animals don’t fit in to your target market with their comrades, they will either achieve a disappointing market value or take up valuable housing space and feeding next winter.

Mineral supplementation at grass

Grass is deficient in some mineral elements.

Young growing animals require minerals and vitamins to achieve target growth rates and bodily function. Supplementation of minerals to weanlings at grass is highly recommended, either by inclusion in concentrates, through mineral blocks/buckets or through a bolus.

It amazes me every year how many farmers don’t give minerals to their bulling heifers on grass.

This can easily be done, with a beef mineral lick, and provides essential minerals and vitamins to aid frame growth, expression of heat and maintenance of a pregnancy.

Sward quality and management

Grass being fed to weanlings should be of excellent quality to achieve target gains. Low quality grass has no role in getting target growth from weanlings.

However, excellent quality grass can play a major role in reducing overall feed costs. Ideally young stock should be grazed in a rotational pattern rather than set stocking in order to insure better quality grass is available all of the time.


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