Finishing cattle off grass: Cattle that are being targeted for finishing on grass should be starting to put on fat cover now, so keep a close eye over the coming weeks to ensure that cattle do not run out of spec. If cattle to be killed next month appear lean, increase the meal levels being fed. Grass will provide more than enough protein for the animal, so buy a high-energy ration (UFV 0.95+) with a protein level of 12% to 14%. Ideally, a simple mix of barley, soya hulls and beet pulp will do the job. You could include some maize meal if you are feeding late-maturing continental animals. Feeding 4kg to 5kg/day should suffice in heifers and dairy-bred steers, with 5kg to 6kg/day enough for continental-type steers. Split the meal into two feeds per day if feeding over 5kg/day. Autumn grass is lower in energy, so higher meal levels will increase energy intake and help animals to hit the correct fat score. It will also help to improve grading and kill-out. If ground conditions are difficult, you may be better to house and feed indoors for the final weeks for the final finishing period. Feeding ad-lib meals during this final phase could also help free up some extra silage for other stock on the farm this winter.
Grass Management: Farmers on wetter soil types should be starting to think about closing up paddocks from the beginning of October. This takes a bit of planning and it’s important to think about what paddocks you want to graze first next spring. The farm should be closed in stages allowing regrowths to be grazed next spring. Many will say that this has not worked out for the last two years but getting cattle out early next spring could be a big help in keeping the expensive winter feeding period shorter. The rotation length needs to increase to 35 days in September. This can be achieved by slowing cattle up by feeding concentrates at grass to finishing cattle or bringing more fields into the grazing rotation, such as second-cut silage fields. Nitrogen can also be spread to boost grass growth but response to spreading will be declining all the time as nights get cooler and days get shorter. Housing heavy finishing animals and leaving younger stock out could also be an option on some farms. It is very important to be flexible and graze wetter parts of the farm in dry weather and leave the dry paddocks for when the rain comes. We go into more detail on autumn grassland management in this week’s beef feature on p36.