Irish Independent - Farming - - CALF TO BEEF -

feed in­take

In or­der to max­imise your per-per­for­mance over the win­ter feed­ing pe­riod you need to pro­vide all the cor­rect pa­ram­e­ters to achieve max­i­mum in­take. It is es­sen­tial to min­imise stress and di­ges­tive up­sets. Max­imis­ing in­take and in­creas­ing growth rates will re­duce days to slaugh­ter and im­prove your feed con­ver­sion ef­fi­ciency.


Fin­ish­ing an­i­mals will re­quire a min­i­mum of two and a half square me­tres. 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.


En­sure that all an­i­mals have enough feed­ing space, so that every an­i­mal in the pen can feed at the same time and that there is no bul­ly­ing. Large an­i­mals will need a space of 650mm to meet this re­quire­ment.

There should be fresh clean water avail­able at all times. If you wouldn’t drink it your­self it’s not clean enough! Have a min­i­mum of one trough per 10 an­i­mals. Large an­i­mals re­quire over 40 litres of water per day. Check your troughs to en­sure that they can sup­ply this. role to play as a buf­fer to sta­bilise the ru­men.

En­sure that there is good ven­ti­la­tion but avoid­ing draughts at an­i­mal level. The an­i­mal should have a dry lie and be com­fort­able. Avoid mix­ing an­i­mals once they are housed as this in­creases stress. Have the feed bar­rier at the cor­rect height, rub marks on the back of the neck in­di­cate that it is too low and is re­strict­ing ac­cess and there­fore in­take. Clean troughs reg­u­larly and re­move waste feed. Troughs should have a smooth sur­face and not rough stone or dam­aged con­crete as dam­age to the tongue when lick­ing will cause sore­ness and re­duce in­takes.


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. Watch with­drawal pe­ri­ods with fin­ish­ing an­i­mals.

8 Know the mar­ket re­quire­ments

Make your­self fa­mil­iar with the mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tion that your end user re­quires. Know the tar­get car­cass weights re­quired. Are you fin­ish­ing heifers, steers or bulls? Each will have dif­fer­ent fin­ish­ing feed pe­ri­ods. Watch heifers and early ma­tur­ing an­i­mals don’t go over fat. Heifers have the short­est feed­ing pe­riod, then steers fol­lowed by bulls with the long­est feed­ing pe­riod.

Paul Gib­ney, Tea­gasc, speak­ing at the Green Acres event on Michael Ryan’s farm

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