Top tips on feeding weanlings this winter
2018 has been a difficult year in terms of farm management. We have faced many difficulties including the fodder woes of the spring, the intense summer drought and overall poorer market prices for livestock.
The prices paid for weanlings have always been determined by both the weight for age of the animal as well as the animals breed. Once the cow goes in calf, we can only try to control the diet of our animals. In any given year, we have ample supply of grass throughout the summer, leading to high milk production in our suckler cows and excellent growth rates in our calves.
2018 has been led to more difficulty in controlling these factors as we faced a later turnout, followed by the impact of the drought on grass growth and quality over the summer.
These issues have had a huge impact on the weanling markets this autumn with many farmers who do not usually rely on meal feeding calves while they are still suckling faced with the reality of weaning calves at lighter weights.
As a consequence of this, many farmers are now considering keeping their weanlings over the winter or at least until market prices rise. Where this is the case, farmers need to consider the diet of these animals going forward.
The minimum target of a weanling diet is to achieve 0.5kg liveweight per day over the housing period. If weanlings are gaining any less than this it will lead to a stunting effect on the animals mainly due to their minimum requirements for protein, which is essential for growth and development, as well as the weight targets to improve their marketability not being achieved.
The growth rate required over the winter period is heavily dependent on the market being targeted. Where cattle are being sold from the shed or being targeted for the young bull market it will pay to have them gaining more weight indoors, even though it will increase the cost of the system in the short term.
However, if animals are being turned out to grass the following spring on your own farm, the additional meal feeding required for rapid additional growth will not be justified.