Keep housing routines regular to cash in on better finished cattle
The housing of beef animals that are destined for finishing this winter is nearing completion on most farms.
Simple routines carried out at housing, and for the remainder of the housed period, will ensure the health of the animals will not be impaired while housed. Animal performances will be directly affected by what it is fed and what routines are adopted on the farm.
Irregular feeding routines will have the animals sometimes waiting for prolonged periods for feed. Bullying and gorging with feed is inevitable in this situation, so the importance of feeding close to the same time every day cannot be over emphasised.
Group sizes also have a direct effect on performance, especially with bulls. Anyone that has experienced the bullying of one bull in a group will then realise that this is not as big a problem in small groups. It may sound unbelievable but I regularly visit farms that not only house bulls and heifers side by side but I frequently encounter bulls and heifers housed in the same pen -- and maximum performance is expected in this situation.
I recently encountered a situation where there was no water whatsoever available for the animals on a fodder-beet-based diet. On enquiring as to why the water was restricted, I was informed that there was enough moisture in the beet and reducing water intake would also reduce the amount of slurry produced.
There is clear evidence that finishing animals will achieve higher weight gains when they are straw bedded rather than on slats, with or without rubber mats. Animals that eat regularly and then have a dry, comfortable bed will spend more time lying and ruminating. When contented, animals will achieve greater performance and also, in my experience, much better kill-outs.
Following logical routines at housing and throughout, the housed period will therefore pay dividends. The following is a list of what you should and should not do.