Will compensatory growth result in reducing feeding cost without impacting on overall performance?

Tanygraig Farm consists of a herd of 41 Belgian Blue suckler cows (spring/summer calving) with the cattle being finished on farm between 17 and 24 months of age and sold to a local abattoir. The cattle are rotationally grazed during the spring and summer months and housed in cubicles by mid-October, depending on weather conditions. Whilst housed during the first winter period, the cattle are fed ad lib grass silage and a 14% CP coarse blend fed at approx 1 kg/head/day. Concentrates are increased during the second winter to 3kg/head/day from October to December and 5kg/head/day from January to finishing. The cattle are weighed when there is labour availability to monitor weights. 

It is estimated that feed costs accounts for approximately 75% of total costs of production in beef herds, therefore, small improvements in feed efficiency can have a large impact on farm profitability. Research has shown that live weight gains of 0.5–0.6 kg/day through the first winter for weaned youngstock are adequate for those who will return to pasture in spring. Due to compensatory growth over the summer, cattle that gained less over the first winter had the highest live weight gain at grass, resulting in losing the first winter weight advantage by the end of the grazing season. The project aims to trial eliminating concentrate feeding the weanlings during the first winter to quantify the benefit of reduced feed costs without impacting on overall performance by reducing costly winter feeding and making better use of grass which is ultimately the cheapest feed source. 

Through driving further improvement in efficiency in these key business areas, the project will also contribute to the Sustainable Land Management outcomes including

  • contribute to high herd health and welfare 
  • support improvement in maximising carbon storage and sequestration whilst reducing the whole-farm carbon footprint
  • reduce the farms’ greenhouse gas emissions
  • improve resource efficiency by making the most of home-grown forage on farm