Soft grass, hard to get straw

Irish Examiner - Farming - - BEEF SECTOR - Brian Reidy

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

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.

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