Soft grass, hard to get straw
Most areas continue to have plentiful grass, but weather conditions are an issue for many livestock farmers. Grass utilisation has dropped, due to heavy rain, with a lot of grass walked into the ground. Cattle are not content. It is better to move out of paddocks before they are fully grazed, rather than let animals damage the ground. The grass left behind will still be there in the next rotation. It happens at this time every year. Grass quality looks good, but it has got much softer and lower in dry matter. This grass is also low in fibre; as a result, dungs have noticeably got looser.
Grass has plenty of protein; most samples I have tested (mobile NIR4) recently showed 23-26% protein. Animals are going through grazing swards very fast. Paddocks that look to have good volumes of grass are being consumed quicker than expected. It would be fair to assume that grass dry matters are below 15%. Recorded figures over the last 10 days or so were 13-14% dry matter. Beef cattle will eat about 2% of their bodyweight in dry matter each day, so a 500Kg bullock needs 70+ kg of fresh grassm, quite a lot to expect in 24 hours.
Beef and dairy stock are beginning to look a little bit empty lately. Dairy farmers are starting to see milk yields slip more than normally accepted, if they have not started or increased supple- mentation. Given this trend, it is fair to assume beef performance is also slipping, if animals are on similar pastures.
Feeding weanlings at grass
We should all now have the year’s largest farm cover, and rotation lengths should be stretching in excess of 30 days, depending on stocking rate and land type.
If you need to stretch the grass supply, the best practice is to begin supplementing younger animals at grass. They require the least dry matter, so a little concentrate will go a long way to satisfying their requirements. Secondly, they do the least damage around feed troughs. Weanlings also present the least physical threat to you when feeding them outside.
Young bulls from last year
Autumn 2016 calves are now approaching 12 months old. No matter what their target slaughter age, they should be close to housing now.
For a 16-month finish, they need to be pushed now. For later finishing, they should be brought in for further growing before finish. Feeding these bulls outdoors at this time of year will not maintain target weight gains, and may prove unsafe for man and beast (depending on the equipment available). Indoors, it is very important that they are on a suitable diet for their size and age. Bulls fed properly are extremely content, and spend most of their time lying down sleeping. Unhappy bulls will fight and jump on each other. Seek exper t nutritional advice, for these bulls to optimise returns.
Autumn finishing of bullocks and heifers on grass
Cattle to be f inished of f grass this autumn must now get meal, to achieve the desired confirmation and fat grades. Little or no protein is required in this supplement. Plenty of energy is what is required, and given the price of cereals at present, they should make up a very high percentage of the mix.
Winter feed budget
As the autumn creeps on, and daylight hours get shorter, much of the fodder has already been saved.
Maize silage crops look very well, and the harvest date may be a little earlier this year.
It is time to re-assess your winter feed budget. Many f armers have not secured all of their required straw, so the sooner a budget is done, the sooner you can deal with deficits, or put your mind at ease that you will be OK for feed.
Either way, do the maths.
Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Two Limousin store heifers born in March, 2016, at Kanturk Mart on Tuesday, which weighed 362kg and sold for €725.
A Limousin weanling bull at Kanturk Mart on Tuesday, born in January, which weighed 430kg and sold for €1,080.