Get­ting it right with cat­tle feed­ing

The Oban Times - - Farm­ing -

The first of a se­ries of work­shops run by SAC Con­sult­ing was held re­cently near Fort Wil­liam at Mal­colm Cameron’s Strone Farm, with over 40 farm­ers at­tend­ing.

At the meet­ing Gavin Hill, Robert Gilchrist, QMS knowl­edge trans­fer spe­cial­ist, and Karen Ste­wart, nu­tri­tion spe­cial­ist with SAC Con­sult­ing, ad­dressed key is­sues along with lo­cal vets.

Karen Ste­wart said: ‘Many cows in this area are out-win­tered, and while the silage might look fine, re­sults so far have shown that it can be low in pro­tein, en­ergy or even con­tam­i­nated with soil due to har­vest­ing in wet con­di­tions,’.

‘It’s too late to dis­cover at Christ­mas time that cows are too thin. It is bet­ter to sup­ple­ment with draff or con­cen­trate feed­ing from the start of the win­ter if silage is ei­ther poor qual­ity or in short sup­ply.’

Gavin Hill said: ‘ The win­ter of 2014/ 2015 will have been ex­pen­sive for many with cat­tle housed for seven to eight months and any sur­plus for­age used up. We could be faced with another ex­pen­sive win­ter, so farms do not want to be car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers. Cows should be preg­nancy di­ag­nosed as soon as pos­si­ble to al­low man­age­ment de­ci­sions to be made re­gard­ing any bar­ren cows.

‘ Where for­age stocks are low, and not the qual­ity tar­geted, care­ful cal­cu­la­tions need to be un­der­taken to look at the costs of feed­ing store/ fin­ish­ing cat­tle which will al­low de­ci­sions to be taken re­gard­ing sell­ing or keep­ing stock.’

The man­age­ment

of bulls was also dis­cussed and the fact that they will also have suf­fered from the poor weather this year, espe­cially if they were bought at the spring sales, was high­lighted.

‘Too of­ten, well-fed bulls bought at a mar­ket are taken home and ex­pected to thrive on a for­age-based diet,’ ex­plained Gavin Hill. ‘Sud­den changes in their nu­tri­tion can af­fect not only their weight, but also their tem­per­a­ment, fer­til­ity and li­bido.’

He rec­om­mends an ad­just­ment pe­riod of two to three months be­tween pur­chas­ing a bull and putting him out with cows and, in that time, get him used to his new sur­round­ings, so­cialise him with other live­stock and grad­u­ally change him from a ce­real to a for­age-based diet.

He said: ‘ A bull is usu­ally a con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment for the farmer so it is im­por­tant he gets the most out of him by slowly ad­just­ing his feed­ing and also al­low­ing him to ex­er­cise so he is fit enough to work.’

The work­shops are funded by Qual­ity Meat Scot­land (QMS) with sup­port from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment ad­vi­sory ac­tiv­ity.

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