Using meal to add the finishing touch
Targeted feeding with meal can help maximise prices for animals earmarked for slaughter before the winter
Many dairy calf to beef systems require animals being fit for slaughter off of grass before the winter period.
Finishing steers and heifers off of grass from August to November generally requires some level of meal feeding at grass for a period before slaughter.
The response to meal feeding at grass varies depending on factors such as the amount and quality of grass available, the breed and sex of the animal, and the finishing level of the animals been fed.
Well managed early season grass is capable of giving daily live weight gains in excess of one kilo per day.
In that scenario the economic return to meal feeding at grass would be very low or not viable. As cattle reach the final finishing stage and as the grass quality declines then the response to feeding two to four kgs of meal can be estimated at 1kg carcase to 12-14kg meal.
Trials at Teagasc Grange have shown that when cattle had adequate grass, a good response of 1kg carcase/11kgs meal was achieved by feeding 2.5kgs.
However, the response declined rapidly to 1kg carcase / 20kgs meal when the meal level was increased to 5kgs/day with adequate grass available.
In many situations it may be necessary to feed up to 6kg/day to heavy cattle if top quality grass is not available. At levels above 6kg/day it would be better to house cattle and put them on a high energy finishing diet.