Maximising intake to optimise performance
Maximising dry matter intake (DMI) is vital to optimise performance of growing and finishing cattle. Increasing growth rates will reduce days to slaughter and improve your feed conversion efficiency. Maximising intake relies on a number of areas.
Formulation of the ration
Very wet or dry rations can reduce intake as can highly fibrous rations which fill up the rumen and are slowly fermented. In mixed rations containing forage, aim for a dry matter (DM) range of 40 -55%. Minimise dust in dry rations by adding a liquid feed such as molasses
Keep feeds fresh and palatable
Some ingredients are more palatable than others. Poor storage of feeds can predispose them to moulds which not only reduce intake but can cause health problems. Consistency is also important, as it will take time for the rumen microbes to adapt to any changes.
Continuous access to a clean and comfortable feeding area
Do not let the feed barriers prevent cattle eating as much as they want. Check they are high enough and wide enough to allow easy access with no sharp edges. Smooth surfaces are easier for the cattle to eat from and keep clean. Avoid pitted, rough concrete feeding surfaces. Clean feed troughs out regularly, at least weekly to avoid the build-up of old or heated feeds. Allow access to feed all the time. Push up and feed regularly enough to ensure fresh feed is always available to the cattle. Allow sufficient feed space so that all cattle can be fed at once if not feeding ad-lib rations.
Too many animals in a pen means there are less feeding opportunities for each animal. Every time they get a chance to eat they will consume larger volumes of feed, producing more acid and increasing the chances of rumen upsets.
Clean fresh water
Intake of water is positively correlated to feed intake. Site water troughs to avoid feed or bedding contamination, but where cattle can reach them easily. Clean water troughs regularly, at least weekly.
Ensure there is good ventilation but avoid draughts at animal level. Animals should have a dry lie and be comfortable. Avoid mixing animals once they are housed as this increases stress.
Have a health programme in place to ensure that worms, liver and rumen fluke and external parasites like lice and mange are controlled and are not affecting performance. Watch out for lameness and treat/footbath as required. O’Donovan Engineering, Ireland’s leading designer & manufacturer of housing and handling equipment, have a wide range of troughs, drinkers, barriers and cubicles available for your winter housing facilities.
O’Donovan Engineering (ODEL) have 5 different styles of barriers; diagonal, crest, self-locking, ultra-safe and the CowPow. All these barriers can be custom made to any length to suit any farmer’s needs. A wide range of beef and suckler penning is also available and ODEL will manufacture custom penning to suit your needs. Efficiency is the main priority in mind when designing our barriers. We aim to; minimize wastage, reduce bullying and maximize comfort for the animal whilst eating. Stainless Steel fixed and flipping water drinkers are proving extremely popular due to their large capacity and ease of cleaning. A common problem with drinking tanks in houses is water being fouled. With the flipping drinker, contents can be simply dumped by a quick flick over of the tank, which is on a pivot, with a fast flow valve.
O’Donovan Engineering also supply a wide range of La Buvette drinking bowls. These cast iron bowls which maintain a constant water level and have a wraparound galvanized protection are ideal for calf and cattle pens.
All of O’Donovan Engineering’s winter housing product range is available to view on or call for further information.