Getting the yearling cattle back to grass on a dairy calf-to-beef farm always comes as a great relief, as it frees up more time to dedicate to rearing this year’s crop of calves.
However, we must remember that the yearlings are still a high priority group on the farm.
Liveweight gains at grass over the first two months of the grazing season are typically the highest of the year.
If we don’t ensure that these animals are well looked after during this period, it can have a seriously detrimental effect on the carcase weight achieved come slaughter time.
Looking at the 19-month production system template, yearling cattle should have been around 340kg and 360kg for heifers and bullocks respectively at turnout.
This means that the grass demand of these animals is still quite low. Grazing large paddocks can slow down the rotation, leaving stock for too long in the one area.
A better approach is to graze smaller-sized paddocks over the coming weeks to maximise liveweight gain and ensure you achieve a decent cleanout of paddocks in the first rotation.
It’s fair to say that grass supplies are sufficient on most dairy-beef farms and while growth has been slow over the past fortnight, temperatures look to be on the way up from early next week, meaning grass growth should kick on in the coming days.
It is important to keep this group of stock moving into fresh grass every two to three days.
Any longer and it will become tramped into the ground. This can be especially true after a day’s rain, when the grass will be soiled and dirty.
If this happens, don’t be afraid to move stock on to the next paddock and keep fresh grass under their heads - you can always come back again and clean out a paddock after it has had a couple of showers of rain to clean it up.
Know your endpoint
Have a plan in your head in terms of the slaughter date for stock. Even at this early stage, it will help you to keep focused on the performance of stock.
At the same time, you need to be realistic. If cattle are 30kg to 40kg behind the target weights outlined above, there is little chance of closing the gap over the course of the grazing period.
These cattle will more than likely need to be rehoused for a finishing period.
Where this is the case, ask yourself where the weight gain was lost.
Was it over the winter period? Or at grass last autumn? Throughout the summer months? Or a combination of all of the above?
Identifying where the problem occurred should help you focus on that period all the more with this year’s calves to avoid being in the same situation again this time next year.