With the recent uplift in beef prices, there will be farmers considering finishing cattle off grass towards the end of the grazing season.
However, while a strong beef price is important, it should not be the only factor in deciding to finish cattle off grass.
Cattle type, ration price, grass supply and the potential live market value this autumn are just a few factors that need to be considered before making a final decision.
Where farmers commit to grass finishing, outlined are five tips to getting the best return on cattle.
1. Weigh cattle at the outset
Weigh cattle before committing to grass finishing. Use this data as a basis to decide if animals will reach a suitable finishing weight by September or early October.
Taking a start date of 1 August to introduce concentrate and assuming a typical liveweight gain of 1kg/day, cattle should be no more than 50kg to 70kg off target finishing weight.
Cattle that need to gain more than 70kg to reach target finishing weight may be better off housed for intensive finishing.
Grass quality and growth will decline as autumn progresses, meaning weight gain will suffer unless concentrate levels are increased.
As such, there is a balancing point where cattle are better off housed on high-quality silage and concentrate rather than a low-dry matter grazing diet during autumn.
2. Separate out cattle for grass finishing
The type of cattle finished must also be considered. Heifers are much better suited to grass finishing than steers and traditional breeds are better suited than continental breeds.
Once a decision has been made on which animals will kill off grass, pull these animals out as a separate grazing group to target higher meal feeding levels.
There is little point running lighter animals along with these animals. When meal levels increase, lighter cattle will be hard to restrict and may go overfat too early.
3. Parasite control
Treat cattle for internal parasites at the start of the meal feeding period. Healthy cattle will have a higher liveweight gain and feed conversion, making it more economic to feed higher levels of concentrate.
4. Silage aftermath
Where possible, prioritise silage aftermath or the better-quality grazing swards for cattle that will finish off grass.
This will limit the level of concentrate feeding requirement to get animals to target finishing weight and fat cover.
5. Meal feeding
Grazed grass will supply enough protein in the diet, so cattle just need a high-energy ration. There is no benefit paying for a ration with protein levels over 14%.
Simply feeding barley or a barley, hulls and maize mix will suffice for grass finishing. When feeding more than 3kg/day, split concentrates across two daily allocations, with one morning and one evening feed.
Depending on grass quality and supply, start heifers on 2kg/day and increase towards 4kg/day for traditional breeds during the final two to three weeks prior to slaughter.
For continental heifers, cap meal levels at 5kg/day if grass supply is tight during the final few weeks before slaughter.
For bullocks, start on 2kg/day and build towards 5kg for traditional breeds and 6kg/day for continental types, depending on grass quality and supply during autumn.