Check ration content and reject poor feed to hit kill-out targets
There is no doubt the recent unprecedented Arctic-type weather has taken its toll on all involved in the livestock industry. Apart from the great strain put on everyone in getting their daily routines completed safely and effectively, there has been a negative effect on the performance of most animals being finished.
I have had several calls from finishers who have had animals slaughtered over recent days, informing me that both conformation grades and carcass weights were well behind their expectations. There are some obvious reasons for this, based on what I have observed when visiting beef farms throughout the country over the past month.
The first and most obvious problem was the lack of water due to frozen water supplies. The effect on performance is greater while animals are on high levels of meal feeding. The rule of thumb of supplying five litres of water for every 1kg of concentrate feed was difficult to achieve during the cold snap.
In most cases, water was only available once a day and on a restricted basis. This has had a huge effect on some farms.
The lesson for the future would be if water is limited, then concentrate levels should be reduced. I have offered a solution in some cases of adding the limited water into the mixer wagon, which will reduce the requirement from the water trough.
The western migration of birds from Europe seeking refuge from the weather is obvious on most livestock farms. All species of birds are posing a problem, but starlings are causing the biggest problems.
The ratio of birds relative to the livestock numbers could be as high as 500. Hungry birds eat in a frenzy and are almost impossible to scare away from an open feeding area. If you are successful in removing them from the feeding area, they would surely then attack the feed storage area.
If using forage maize, whole crop or moist feeds in the diet, it is most difficult to protect these feeds from the hungry bird flocks. Feed contaminated with bird droppings, and feed that has had most of the concentrate removed, will most definitely impact on animal performance.