Weanling performance – hitting targets: Weanling performance is generally below where it should be over winter months on a lot of suckler beef farms.

Lost weight gain during the first winter is hard to make up and will result in delays in finishing times for these animals in 2022 and beyond.

If weanlings are being kept on to graze in 2022, target performance should be somewhere between 0.5-0.7kg/day, depending on your system and type of animal.

Lying space is important – aim for about 2.5m2 for weanlings between 300-400kg.

Check the feeding space and that all animals can feed at the barrier with ease. Check the drinkers are working properly and that there is a clean supply of water going to each pen. Reduced ventilation and air movement can increase the disease burden in the shed and increase pneumonia incidence, which again, will reduce performance. If problems have occurred in the past, talk to your vet about a suitable vaccination programme.

Have a plan regarding fluke, worm and lice control and make sure you follow up with any treatments necessary. Clipping backs can help with lice control. Finally, make sure you have the diet right. Get your silage tested and feed concentrates according to your silage results. Table 1 outlines the feeding levels required to achieve a weight gain of between 0.5-0.7kg/day.

Aim for a simple mix with a high percentage of cereal and a good protein source e.g soya bean meal. Target protein percentage should be 15-16%.

Targeting a gain of 0.5-0.7kg/day will ensure that animals perform to their potential, but still have the potential for compensatory growth when turned back outdoors next spring. It’s a good idea to weigh weanlings at the start of the housing period and again at turnout to see if you have hit targets. If you didn’t hit target weight gains last winter and you do the same things again this winter, the chances are you won’t hit them this winter either. See what you can change to help hit your target.

Water: A clean water supply is essential during the winter housing period to make sure that animal intakes of feed remain on target. It’s important that drinkers are cleaned out once a week to make sure clean water is available at all times. Animal intakes can be severely reduced during the housing period where a plentiful supply of clean water is not provided. It’s good practice to check drinkers first thing every morning. A 500kg bull eating ad-lib meal could drink up to 40l/day, so a good supply in a large enough drinker is essential.

Date for Diary: We are partnering with AXA Insurance to roll out a Winter Cattle Series across two webinars in November and December. The first webinar will take place on Thursday 25 November at 8pm and will cover all aspects of winter feeding on cattle farms, including silage quality, ration formulation, supplementation rates and target weight gains. The second webinar will take place on Thursday 2 December at 8pm. This will cover all aspects of animal health including fluke and worm dosing, vaccinations and ventilation and lying and feeding space requirements. Check out more on www.farmersjournal.ie/webinar.