The 140 finishing stock are now averaging just over 17 months old.

When they were weighed late last week, the bullocks averaged 529kg and the heifers averaged 467kg.

This means that since turnout to grass in mid-March, the bullocks have a daily liveweight gain of 1.10kg/day, while the heifers have done 0.86kg/day.

The bullocks performance is very good and where we would expect it to be over the first four months of the grazing season.

The heifers have performed ever so slightly below where we would like, with a gain of between 0.9kg/day and 1kg/day targeted from grass only.

More flesh

In saying this, the heifers are carrying a lot more flesh this year compared with the same point last year.

Of the 65 heifers, a batch of 32 with an average weight of 492kg have now started to get meal at grass.

These are the heaviest heifers and had to weigh at least 470kg to be included in the meal feeding group.

Some would argue that it is the lightest cattle that need to be fed meal at this stage.

However, when dealing with dairy-beef cattle, especially early-maturing breed types, they tend to go over-fat very quickly once meal feeding is introduced.

If we were to feed meal to the lightest cattle, we would end up having to draft them at lower weights, so as not to be penalised for carcase fat scores.

This would reduce our average carcase weight, which is not what we are trying to do.

Last year, stock came into the shed for meal feeding to minimise damage done to paddocks in autumn.

The aim for the heifers is to achieve a carcase weight of 280kg at 19 months of age off grass. This target carcase increases to 320kg for the bullocks at the same age.


A similar approach was taken with the bullocks, with any bullock over 500kg started on meal at grass.

Of the 75 bullocks, 56 are now starting to get meal at grass. This group has an average weight of 545kg.

Finishing stock on their way back to grass after meal feeding.

Energy is the main component we are looking for from a finishing meal.

Concentrate type

Grass quality is still very good, but, at this time of year, the energy value of grass can begin to decline, so a high-energy concentrate will help boost thrive over the final few weeks.

Energy is also the main driver behind fat deposition on the carcase, so feeding concentrate will help ensure minimum specifications for carcase fat scores are met with all stock.

There is no need for a high-protein diet for finishing stock. High-protein rations are for growing stock such as weanlings.

As well as this, there is still more than adequate levels of protein in grass at the moment to meet the needs of finishing stock.

The meal that is being fed at grass is the same as last year, a simple four-way mix of barley, maize, soya hulls and distillers coming in at a cost of €305/t, which is up €40/t on last year.

When selecting a finishing ration, look for high inclusion rates of barley and/or maize.

With ingredients in rations listed in decreasing order of inclusion rate, this means they should be the first and second ingredient listed on the bag.

Feed rate

All cattle have started getting meal at a rate of 2kg/day. This will then be built up over a number of days to 3kg/day for the heifers and 4kg/day for the bullocks.

It is important to build up meal feeding slowly, as some animals will gorge themselves and it can lead to acidosis problems.

On one part of the farm, a hard stand area was used for meal feeding to prevent poaching ground. A temporary electric fence was set up around the feeding area.

The bullocks will probably increase further later in the season, but, for now, with grass quality and grazing conditions as good as they are, 4kg/day is sufficient.

Feeding meal at grass

With ground conditions in excellent condition, the cattle will be fed under the electric wire at pasture for the next few weeks.

Last year when ground conditions deteriorated, farmer John Hally ran the cattle in the lane to the shed for meal once a day. While this is more time consuming, it does minimise any damage to ground.