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Are you supplementing your weanlings correctly?


A number of on-farm weighing studies over the years have shown that weanlings often underperform over the winter feeding months. There are a number of factors which will affect this performance. Martina Harrington, Teagasc Cattle Specialist has some advice on supplementing weanlings.

A number of on-farm weighing studies over the years have shown that weanlings often underperform over the winter feeding months. There are a number of factors which will affect this performance such as stocking rate, ventilation and health status; however, the winter feeding programme probably has the biggest influence on performance. The main reason why winter feeding is often not adequate is that weanlings are not fed enough meal for the quality of silage they are on.

Table 1- Performance of weanlings on silage of differing DMD

Silage DMDDaily gain (kg)
– Silage only
Meal required per day
to gain 0.5kg/hd/day
75% 0.5Kg 0
70% 0.35Kg 1.5Kg
65% 0.2Kg 2.5Kg
60% 0 3.5Kg

Table 1 shows the performance that you could expect from weanlings where they are on silage alone of varying DMD. Even with 70 DMD silage, you will be stunting your weanlings. Having your silage tested will tell you what quality it is and how much meal should be fed per day to weanlings. The silage test will also tell you what crude protein the silage is. This will give an indication of the crude protein that needs to be in the ration so that the overall diet being fed ensures the weanlings are getting enough protein daily.

Where you have a high-quality but low-protein silage, you will not be feeding a lot of meal but the protein content in the meal should be high. Whereas with a low DMD, high-protein silage the meal feeding level per day will be high and the protein content within the meal will be lower.

From silage test results returned so far this year, the CP levels are higher than normal with tests often coming back 13.5% CP, this can save you purchasing high protein rations. On the reverse side of this the protein levels in barley are lower this year, with many farmer reporting CP levels of just 9.5%. This really does show the importance of testing that silage for an approximate cost of €32 per sample and get your winter nutrition of your weanling’s right.

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to suckler & cattle farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily Find more on Teagasc Beef here.

For any further information or assistance contact your local Teagasc Office here: Advisory Regions.