All 145 yearling cattle were weighed on the Thrive demonstration farm in Cashel, Co Tipperary, last week. Every year, cattle are weighed mid-winter to ensure that performance indoors is living up to expectation.

Often, the winter period is where cattle underperform and fall behind target weight, leaving it difficult to achieve a certain target slaughter date and or weight.

The demo farm operates a 19-month system with the aim to slaughter as many cattle off grass at the end of the grazing season as possible. In order to achieve this, winter performance needs to average between 0.75kg/day and 0.9kg/day live weight gain over the entire period.

Extended grazing period

Due to the decent weather conditions this autumn, housing was delayed by almost three weeks compared to other years. This has helped to reduce the overall cost of the winter period.

At housing, the heifers averaged 255kg and the bullocks were 276kg. This weight was taken as they were housed and looking at the current weight, they may have weighed light at this time due to gut fill.

The difference between an animal of this weight between having a full stomach and being hungry could vary by 10kg or more.

Current weight

Looking at last week’s weights, the heifers are now averaging 302kg while the bullocks are 320kg. This translates to an average daily gain since housing of 0.97kg/day and 1.10kg/day respectively.

While performance has been good, I do not believe that cattle are growing in excess of 1kg/day of 70DMD silage plus 2kg of concentrate.

If we increased housing weight by 10kg (to allow for any gut fill issues at housing) and did the same calculation, average daily gain would be 0.77kg/day and 0.89kg/day.

This is probably more typical of what would be expected on this diet.

Plan for turnout

The good news is that stock are on target for the time of year with heifers needing to be 295kg and bullocks needing to weigh 315kg this week to be on target for a 19-month system.

The plan for the next week or so is to leave the diet as and then to reduce meal feeding back to 1kg for a week prior to cutting it out completely for the last few weeks before turnout.

Cattle are growing and not overly fleshed so there is no worry that they are becoming overly fat on the current diet. If they were very fleshed and looking like they were getting fat we would be quicker to reduce the level of meal feeding.