Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 28 May 2017

Importance of a weigh scales: 'You can't manage what you don't measure'

Gordon Peppard

You can't manage what you don't measure is an old but very true saying.

It is very common on beef farms in Ireland that from the day animals are bought/born to the day they are sold or slaughtered the owner has no idea of the exact weight or performance of the animals.

As part of the Teagasc Green Acres programme all the participating farmers are weighing their cattle a minimum of three times throughout the year.

These weighings are targeted at turn out, mid-season and around housing. Last week I caught up with Michael Flynn, one of the participating farmers, to discuss how weighing has benefited him.

Having slaughtered the first batch of his Hereford steers two weeks ago at 21 months of age we looked back at the weight gains and performance of these animals.

The first weighing since joining the programme took place on August 3, 2015 and calves at that time weighed an average of 203kgs. The calves were grazing in groups of around 50 at the time.

By doing this weighing and knowing the exact weight of his calves Michael could rest at ease that these animals were performing well and on course to be slaughtered before their second winter.

Knowing this allowed Michael to carry more animals, as he was confident that enough steers would be slaughtered before housing and he would have adequate accommodation for the remaining animals.

The animals were weighed again on November 2 around housing and came in at an excellent weight of 300kgs. Michael could now design a winter feeding programme based on this information.

The steers were fed good quality silage and 1.5kgs of meal over the winter.

They were weighed again on March 16 at turn out and having done an average daily gain of 0.75kgs they weighed an average 400kgs.

From the weights Michael knew that his animals were well on target for a November slaughter date and they were rotationally grazed on good quality grass with no meals for the second grazing season.

Michael weighted his cattle again on July 25, 2016 where they averaged 556kgs and it was from this weighing that he was able to select out the heaviest 30 to be pushed for finish. Being able to do this meant that he was feeding the most advanced animals and wasn't feeding animals high levels of meal that were quite a bit away from finishing.

The 30 steers were introduced to concentrates on August 20 and having been on concentrates for 50 days, Michael decided to weigh them again on October 12, at this stage they averaged 687kgs.

They were slaughtered on November 11 at an average carcass weight of 376kgs.

The importance of weighing at key stages over the lifetime of the animal was emphasised by Michael in that it allowed him to make better informed decisions about the management of his stock at a number of critical times during the year, thereby maximising performance.

Online Editors