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Management of Weanlings over the Winter


Donal McCabe, Drystock advisor focuses on the factors which should be considered this winter to achieve a margin from weanlings. These include concentrates, ventilation and the supply of clean water.

The management of weanlings over the winter is a very important factor in achieving a margin from these cattle regardless of whether you choose to sell them in the spring or put them out to grass again. The target weight gain for weanlings over the winter is 0.6kgs /head /day. Over a 150 day winter, this amounts to 90kgs of weight gain. In many cases however, weanlings fall well short of this target. The following are some factors which should be considered to help ensure your weanlings thrive well this winter;

Concentrates

Unless you are feeding very high quality silage, most weanlings require at least some supplementation with concentrates over the winter. It is important to test your silage and feed the quantity of concentrates based on the results. Weanlings require 13 – 14% Crude Protein in their diet. Crude Protein results from grass silage analysis are regularly < 12% protein and therefore needs to be balanced with concentrates with a 16% Crude Protein content. Adequate protein is essential for the growth in ‘frame’ of the weanling.  It is important to know how much meal you are feeding. A typical ‘lick’ bucket contains approximately 11.5 kgs of nuts or 9 kgs of meal (water level measure). Typically, weanlings will require 1-2kgs concentrates per head per day to reach the 0.6kg target indicated above.

Ventilation

Many farmers undervalue the critical role that good ventilation in their cattle housing plays in achieving good animal performance. A good movement of air throughout the shed will help keep cattle healthy, which allows them to thrive.

Clean Water

It is important to clean water troughs regularly as cattle forced to drink dirty water will not drink enough which will supress their appetite and subsequently thrive.

Remember, the winter is the most expensive period on most cattle farms. A plan should be put in place now to shorten the winter period by getting cattle out to grass as soon as possible in spring.