Getting it right with cattle feeding
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.’
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.