Pros and cons of this year’s extended grazing bonus

As was the case this time last year, a lot of stock still remain outside.

This extended grazing season has been a great bonus for livestock producers, as it will hopefully reduce winter silage requirements, and will reduce pressure on slurry stores.

Good grass growth continued over recent weeks, and many have given in to temptation and gone back into fields that they had already closed for the winter.

Undoubtedly, growth has been fantastic, but you really must think of next spring at this stage. Are animals performing as you require, from November grass. What grass will you have left for turnout in the spring?

Most have plenty of fodder saved for the winter, so it is not likely that you need to overstretch the grazing season for fear that you will run out in the spring.

As I have mentioned here in previous weeks, there is a lot of extra feeding in pits, because most silages are quite dry this year.

Performance from grass

Most of the animals that remain out grazing are weanlings, and unless they are being supplemented with concentrates, they are not achieving growth targets.

This is more of an issue if these are heifers you intend on bulling to calve down next autumn or even next spring.

They need to be growing well, and in a positive energy status, in order to reach sexual maturity and begin cycling well in advance of the breeding season.

For bulls or bullocks you intend on selling next spring, any reduced weight gain now will significantly lower your sale price.

Having said you really must think of next spring, if your farm is lightly stocked, then you can afford to graze on, because demand will not be very high in the spring.

However, if you are heavily stocked at turn out next spring, then you really need to consider housing remaining stock relatively soon.

Obviously, it is better to graze off any heavy covers, in order to ensure sward quality next spring.

If you are exclusively grazing silage fields, that is a different story, because next year’s crop will benefit from being grazed tight in the backend of the year.

In fact, it is evident that those who graze silage ground tightly in November without doing damage, rather than graze it in the spring, tend to produce an excellent first cut each year.

This is down to being able to take a much earlier cut because the ground was grazed tight before Christmas.

Cull cows

Many culls from both beef and dairy herds are being fed at the moment.

The key with these is to get them to slaughter as soon as possible.

Unlike young cattle, often still growing while being finished, cull cows have fully grown. This means that once you supply the energy they require for maintenance, all extra energy will go towards laying down meat and fat.

An intensive feeding period is therefore advised for culls, for optimum performance and return.Cull diets do not require a lot of protein, but the energy density should be high, in order to get a good finish and acceptable fat cover.

Mineral decisions

There are many different mineral specs out there.

Minerals are an important part of good ruminant nutrition, and can play a key role in animal performance.

Don’t buy just any old minerals for your stock.

Ensure that the mineral you buy is fit for purpose, and will compensate for any mineral deficiencies in your silage, or any that have historically been an issue on your farm.

Above all, please don’t listen to those that tell you that finishing animals don’t need any minerals, they usually come out with, “Sure, they will be dead soon”?

That is irresponsible advice and has no basis in a sound animal nutrition strategy.


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