Feeding meals ad lib to finishing cattle

MANY farmers finishing cattle this winter will practice ad lib meal feeding. Performance is usually good, especially with the shortage of fodder this winter, kill out percentage and conformation is better and there is a shorter finishing period.

However, in adding up the pros and cons of this method, it must be borne in mind that high meal prices will reduce profits.

Diet formulation is of critical importance and in order to get a good liveweight gain the animal must have a high dry matter intake of meal each day. Straw or hay should be available as well to ensure proper digestion. A constant supply of clean water is very important. (see table 2)

Meals should be introduced slowly, starting at 3 kgs/day and build up over a 21 day period, adding 1kg every three days. A 500kg animal would eat 10kgs of meal on an ad lib system after 21 days. Always have a source of OLIVER MCGRATH, TEAGASC,

LISTOWEL fibre available such as straw/hay.

When housing be sure to provide adequate lying space, especially on slats; the vntilation needs to be good; straw bedding is ideal for the back of the pen; and watch for excessive sweating

In terms of animal health, the first three weeks (in build up) are critical. Check daily for signs of ill health - the most common issues are acidosis, diarrhoea, laminitis, and liver abscesses. Also, treat animals for usual parasites at housing