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Are you supplementing your weanlings and store cattle correctly this winter?

21 November 2019
Type Media Article

By Luke Clogher, Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Masters Student, Teagasc Castlerea.

During the winter housing period, weanlings and store cattle must continue to thrive as they’re the future of any beef enterprise. Despite the difficulties in the sector at present, the principles of best practice should remain. Cattle must achieve average daily weight gain targets over the winter period to be able to exploit their growth potential and take full advantage of cheap compensatory (“catch up”) growth at pasture during the following grazing season. Average daily gain targets for weanlings are 0.6kg, while its 0.7kg and 0.5kg for steers and heifers respectively. Too much weight gain results in an excessive meal cost. If ADG is <0.5kg/day the animals growth will be stunted, it will have a poor weight for age and will be much less attractive in a mart ring.

Silage quality and concentrate supplementation:

Concentrate supplementation rate is dictated by silage quality (DMD %). Most farmers will decide whether they have good or poor-quality silage based on visual assessment, texture and smell. However, this is only a guide at best. Teagasc silage test results this year indicate that silage stocks vary considerably in quality. As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Silage analysis identifies how good silage actually is, what DMD% it is and tells you what level of meal feeding is needed with it. This avoids concentrate misuse and ensures adequate animal nutrition.

Table 1: Supplementation rate guide (kg/head/day) for a 14-16% crude protein ration based on silage quality for weanlings and store cattle:

Silage DMD %70656055
Weanlings 1 - 1.5 1.5 - 2.0 2.5 - 3.0 3 - 3.5
Store Cattle 0 - 1.0 1.5 - 2.0 2.0 - 2.5 2.5 - 3.0

As outlined in table 1, weanlings consuming silage of 65 DMD% requires 1.5-2kg of meal/head/day. To test your silage costs €35 per sample. Take a fresh sample from the middle of the pit or from a number of bales and mix it up. Place the sample in a freezer Ziploc bag, keep cool and dispatch to the lab as soon as possible. Contact your local Teagasc office for more information.

Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), Roscommon Town  (Tel: 090 6626166) and Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160), You can find us online at on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.