Higher beef prices are filtering through to the store and weanling trade, with buyers actively looking for young cattle.

Cattle quality and weight will influence sale price, but there are other factors that attract greater buying interest.

For herd owners with autumn and early spring-born calves to offload, outlined are five tips to prepare weanlings for autumn sales.

Creep-feeding calves

Current prices for strong weanlings will provide a good return on creep-feeding between now and sale time.

To get the best return on creep-feeding, split bull and heifer calves into separate groups. This means higher levels of creep feed can be offered to bull calves.

At this stage of the year, January to March-calving cows should be settled in calf. Re-grouping animals to separate out bull and heifer calves should not be an issue if stock bulls are still with cows.

At a ration price of €300/t, feeding good-quality bull calves 4kg/day will cost €1.20 and support weight gain in the region of 1.5kg/day.

At a mart price of €2.70/kg, the outlined weight gain is worth over €4/day, covering the cost of purchased feed.

Heifers can be fed 2kg/day, or 3kg/day if grass is in short supply and animals have higher conformation.

For farmers in the BEEP scheme, remember it is a requirement to feed concentrate for four weeks pre-weaning and two weeks post-weaning.

Creep-grazing to break cow and calf bond

Allow calves to creep graze ahead of cows. Calves will get the best grass available and it will help break the cow and calf bond, so the calf will already be semi-weaned.

Ideally, set the creep feeder up ahead of the cows to entice calves forward. Using calf or sheep troughs is far more practical for this option than an ad-lib feeder.

Raise the electric wire at multiple points rather than one single point. This helps calves get back to the cows during the first few days of creep-grazing.

To raise the wire, tape a couple of plastic posts together to allow calves pass under, while holding cows back.

At the start, set up the wire so that cows and calves are in the same paddock. Allow calves to creep forward to a small area ahead of the cows, for example a headland.

This helps both animals get used to creep-grazing and cows are less inclined to break fences as their calf is still within sight.

Grazing silage aftermath

With silage fields coming back into the grazing rotation, try and target these swards for weanlings destined for sale. Combined with creep-grazing, this will drive weight gain.


Keep on top of worms, particularly lungworm, from August until sale time. After such a long dry spell, the rain will see a rapid increase in worm levels on pasture.

When herding calves, check animals closely for early signs of a worm burden and treat accordingly. This may be a good time to split out bull and heifer calves for creep-feeding.

Vaccinating for respiratory problems

When worming calves in early August, use the opportunity to vaccinate against pneumonia and IBR.

While some farmers see this step as an added expense, it costs less than €15/calf, which is less than 6kg of liveweight gain at current mart prices.

A calf with pneumonia will lose a lot more than 6kg of liveweight, never mind counting up the expense of veterinary treatment.

Vaccinating will safeguard calves from respiratory problems and seasoned finishers are more likely to buy your weanlings again in subsequent years.

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