Best autumn grass only good for 0.75 kg/day gain

There are two main objectives for grassland management, once you get into August and September.

They are:

* maintain animal performance from good quality grass, and

* prepare grassland for later autumn grazing, and early grass next spring.

As we approach mid-August, grass quality tends to begin to deteriorate, due to a drop off in dry matter and sugars.

By the time we reach the Ploughing Championships next month, grass growth will have slowed down significantly, to 15-20 kg of dry matter per ha per day, so the priority is to make best use of existing grass between now and housing.

Dividing up bigger fields into grazing blocks of 2-3 days will give better utilisation and allow areas ahead to continue to grow.

A back fence to restrict grazing of re-growths will allow covers to recover for subsequent grazings, before closing for the winter.

Continue to apply fertiliser right up to the closing date, as there will be a response while conditions are good, and the ground is in excellent condition after the year.

Finishing cattle off grass

The best of autumn grass is only capable of giving 0.75 kg of live weight gain per day on finishing cattle, whereas the target is a gain of at least 1 kg per day.

Research has shown that there is a good response in finishing cattle at grass by supplementing with 2.5-3 kg of meal per day, provided that excellent quality grass is available at all times.

However, if top quality swards are not available, it will be necessary to feed up to 6 kg/day to heavy heifers, or steers that are close to finish.

The volume of meal needed will depend on the breed and sex of the animals being fed.

At this time of the year, finishing cattle off grass quickly has many advantages, in terms of stocking rate, profitability and work load.

Meal type required

This meal will need to be high in energy and low in protein in order to get the final cover of fat on cattle quickly.

With the price of cereals as low as they are at present, any high-energy, low-protein meal should be bought at good value. Avoid fillers such as palm kernel, pollard and sunflower in these mixes, as they are of absolutely no advantage in a good finishing diet.

Housing decisions

If weather or ground deteriorate over the coming weeks, you are much better off to house finishers sooner rather than later, to maintain daily weight gains.

This will help to maintain the required performance and will save pastures from unnecessary damage.

In poor weather, where insufficient energy is being consumed, cattle can actually go backwards from this stage of the year.

Forward Stores

Forward store cattle that are to finished indoors later in the year can easily be brought up to 4 kg of meal or more per day outdoors, and then housed to be built up to their final finishing diet in about 10-12 days.

These cattle will have a high weight gain in the short-term before housing, and will find the transition indoors much easier than those on grass alone before going indoors.


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