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The golden rules for weanling producers

Compensatory growth is more of a myth than a reality on some farms, says ruminant nutritionist Paul Mooney, from Trouw Nutrition.

"Be realistic about your farm and what you can feed your cattle in the spring and summer," he advised farmers who are producing weanlings.

"Restricting cattle in the winter makes sense if you can give them top quality feed in the spring and autumn, but if you can't, then you should be aiming for consistent growth."

Mr Mooney was one of a several speakers who addressed 200 weanling producers at the Connacht Gold weanling symposium in Claremorris, Co Mayo, on Thursday night.

Speaking to the Farming Independent, Mr Mooney outlined five golden rules:

•Feed composition -- Mr Mooney warned farmers to assess feed based on their ingredient composition and quality and not just visual appearance. While most farmers were attracted to the muesli-type creep feeds, studies conducted by Trouw Nutrition have shown that pellets can result in higher intakes and performance. The studies showed that when dairy-bred calves fed on muesli and difference size pellets were compared, both performance and intake were better on pellets of 8-10mm in size.

"There is a perception muesli and crunch products are better but that is not necessarily the case," he said.

•Cow management There are differences of up to four litres per day in the milk production between some breeds and crossbred cows.

"Milk is still the cheapest feed available, so choose your cow well and feed her to maximise milk production. Feeding her correctly will also get her back in calf easier," he added.

•Health strategy Mr Mooney advised farmers to use a planned health strategy, devised in conjunction with the vet and other advisers.

"Work with your vet to address the specific parasites on your farm, prevent pneumonia and other diseases." n Nutrition strategy "Work out a nutrition strategy that suits your farm," he says. "Get your fodder tested and feed concentrates according to your animals and your farm. Don't wait to find out that your cattle are 50kg lighter than they should be, be proactive."

•Avoid growth checks Farmers must avoid any checks in their weanlings' growth. "Plan to avoid growth checks at all costs because they are linked with stress and subsequently ill- health," he warned.

Cows should be managed to reduced milk supply on the approach to weaning, while creep feeding should be stepped up at the same time.

Caitriona Murphy

Indo Farming