Step one of any winter diet plan is to accurately test the silage available on-farm. Farm manager Shaun Diver has this carried out and the results show the first cut silage as being 71.5% DMD with a crude protein content of 12.7%.

This is the best silage in the yard and is being targeted to the growing stock. The second cut silage, which was allowed to bulk slightly, is 67% DMD and this is perfect for feeding dry cows that are in adequate condition or cows that can afford to lose some condition between now and calving.

Weanling diets

Alongside the first cut silage, fed ad-lib, the weanlings are also being fed a 16% crude protein ration which contains;

Rolled barley 36%.

Beet pulp nut 18%.

Distillers grain - 14%.

Flaked maize - 14%.

Rolled beans - 10%.

Molasses - 6%.

Minerals and vitamins - 2%.

This ration is currently being delivered in bulk to the farm at a cost of €305/t, however the farm has been notified of a €10/t increase coming into effect from 1 December.

The heifers are currently on 1.5kg/day of this fed on top of the silage once a day. At the time of housing, they were around 340kg on average. The aim for these heifers is to achieve around 0.65kg/day to 0.7kg/day over the winter period, before heading back to grass in late February or early March.

Meal feeding will end for these heifers maybe six weeks prior to the expected turnout date, so that they are ready to transition to a grass-based diet and it will also help increase liveweight gains from grass in the initial 60 to 80 days at pasture.

For the bulls, the approach is different. They are aiming for an under 16-month finish and so will remain indoors through to slaughter next summer. At the time of housing, they averaged 360kg liveweight and since then they have been built up to 3kg/day of the same ration as above.

They will remain on this level of ration up until Christmas and from then on, Shaun will slowly build up the feed level, initially to 5kg/day, but eventually they will go on ad-lib meal feeding. The ration will change at some point in spring for the bulls to a slightly lower protein mix.

Measure performance

While the diets are calculated and should deliver the required performance, Shaun will not be taking any chances and will weigh cattle mid-winter to determine whether or not the diets are delivering what they are supposed to.

Read more

Watch back: winter cattle series – nutrition webinar

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