Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 23 February 2018

Summer indoor beef feeding isn't an easy business

I have visited a number of units in recent weeks that, because of the poor April and May, have had to rehouse animals that were grazed in the early spring or continued to feed forward animals that originally were destined for grass.

Other cattle that are still housed at this time are inside for a number of reasons:

1.Animals were housed last autumn and haven't met performance targets;

2.The lightest of young bulls purchased and housed last autumn are now only reaching maturity and the proper weight for slaughter;

3.Early spring purchased forward bulls or heifers that are being fed for specific markets such as the Keenan Kepak Beef club.

Summer-housed animals need much greater attention than autumn/winter housed stock in order to perform to their maximum and to justify the added cost of feed and housing.

As mentioned earlier, there will be a number of reasons why animals are possibly still housed.

Animals that were housed late last winter or early in the spring probably have reached their performance peak by now and hardly justify continuing to feed on.

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With increased feed costs since the animals were first housed, it is likely to be now costing in excess of €3.25/hd/day between feed and overheads.

The lighter bulls that were housed last autumn are now at their peak performance and if the feeding programme is correct, then it's almost possible to see them gaining daily.

MATURITY

Young continental cross bulls that are now reaching maturity should be receiving the maximum feed energy input.

This will allow them to gain, depending on their genetics, anywhere up to 2kg/day liveweight.

A very high percentage of this gain is in the form of actual carcass gain.

The value of their daily carcass gain will outweigh the cost of feed and other direct overheads.

Boosting the energy and decreasing the protein level of the overall diet as bulls come closer to finish will have a very positive effect on the carcass quality.

The animals will have a better cover of fat, which is desired by the processing industry (fat grades 2-3).

Overall protein content of the diet on continental bulls at this stage should be 14pc and 12pc with non-continentals such as Friesian or Holstein types.

Using forage such as maize silage requires good pre-planning as the pit face needs to be narrow and well-managed so as to avoid secondary fermentation and wastage.

The menace of birds soiling and eating valuable feed cannot be underestimated.

unsuccessful

I calculate that in some circumstances a bad infestation of various birds can remove up to 20pc of all concentrate feed offered.

Most attempts or methods of reducing bird-damage have proven unsuccessful.

As referred to in a previous article, potatoes are still available and they are very suitable for feeding to finishing animals.

Brewer's grains, bread and other selected by-products are also readily available at this time of year and as summer prices are generally cheaper than winter rates, they should be seriously considered when planning what to feed in a TMR system.

Until this year's harvest begins, all concentrate blends will continue to be very expensive therefore reducing the daily feeding margin on all housed animals.

In conclusion, summer indoor feeding is a very specialist process which has distinct challenges from a management and economic view so therefore it requires very detailed planning and execution.

Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist with Carlow-based firm Keenans. Email: ggiggins@keenansystem.com

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