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Virtual Beef Conference 2020 - Day 1 Achieving target performance

Achieving target performance for weanlings during their first winter is theme of Day 1 of the Virtual Beef Conference 2020, held at 8pm Tuesday 1st December. The first of three nights of webinars featured presentations by Mark McGee, Teagasc Grange and Martina Harrington, Teagasc Beef Specialist

Day 1 of the conference was chaired by Michael Slattery, Drummonds.

View Webinar Recording here:

The first of two presentations was delivered by Mark McGee - Teagasc Grange Research. The title of Mark's presentation was

Optimum growth rate for weanling beef cattle during the winter housing period

This is what Mark had to say: To reduce feed costs and exploit subsequent compensatory (“catch-up”) growth at pasture during the following grazing season, a live weight gain of 0.5-0.6 kg/day through the ‘first’ winter is acceptable for weanling steers, heifers (and suckler bulls). Due to compensatory growth, there is little point in over-feeding weanlings during the first winter. However, cattle growing too slowly (<0.5kg/day) during winter are unable to compensate sufficiently at pasture and will not reach target weights later in life. Dry matter digestibility (DMD) is the primary factor influencing the nutritive value of forage and consequently, the performance of forage-fed cattle. Low DMD grass silage means higher levels of concentrate supplementation have to be used to achieve the same growth rates - this highlights the importance of having good silage ‘quality’ for growing cattle. 

Martina Harrington, Teagasc Beef Specialist gave the second presentation titled:

Steps farmers can take to improve the performance of beef weanlings over their first winter indoors

Martina focused on the following 3 main areas :

  1. Nutrition
  2. Environment
  3. Health

All are equally important and can be equated to a three legged stool, if the strategy put in place to deal with either of the three comes up short the stool does not work properly.

As housing is the most expensive period in an animals life and the first winter is crucial in the overall lifetime performance of an animal we cannot afford to get it wrong.

When we speak of environment we mean ventilation, lying space, feed space and water. For health we must manage stress in the first instance and then consider what parasite are present on my farm while not forgetting the ever topical viruses.

The good news is, once in place a robust housing plan will change little over the years and its efficacy is easily monitored though faecal egg sampling and weighing.

For more information on the Virtual Beef Conference and to see details of what's in store for Day 2 and Day 3 see here https://www.teagasc.ie/beefcon20/