Get More Go From Your Grass

UK - Results of new trials are showing that pushing cattle growth too much over the winter may be bad for farm business profitability.
calendar icon 4 August 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

A field day on exploiting compensatory growth is being held this month to present the results of several trials analysed by SAC, which suggested cattle have a limited capacity for growth in the overwintering and summering grass phases within an 18-24 month finishing system.

Research has suggested that high winter gains, which usually come at the cost of extra concentrate feeding, tend to lead to reduced liveweight gains off grass the following summer. This had never been field tested in Scotland before, so a trial was launched on two commercial farms in Orkney and Lanarkshire.

QMS has funded the SAC beef select team to run the trial, which is aimed at demonstrating to farmers that more controlled winter gain will not only save concentrate feeding, but lead to improved performance off grass through improved compensatory growth.

Technical Projects Manager for QMS, Johnny Mackey said: “With the price of feed escalating it’s critical to fully utilise the cheapest feed on the farm, your grass. There’s a perceived notion that you have to push cattle hard over the winter, but these studies are suggesting that they will just come out of the sheds overcooked, and won’t do well on grass.

“The other important issue is that it’s been shown that an inconsistent growth rate can be detrimental to eating quality and tenderness, which after all is what the end consumer is looking for in Scotch Beef.

“We’re hoping that showing the trial in the context of a typical commercial unit will be a lot more effective in helping farmers make the most of limited budgets.

“Some people think you have to get your animals as big as possible over the winter, but it’s been shown that if you manage the diet consistently, you can achieve better growth in spring and summer and save a lot of money in the process.”

The free field day takes place on Tuesday 19 August from 11am at Calla Farm, Carnwath, Lanarkshire. The day also features a talk from host farmer David Baillie about how he does things at Calla, the farm’s cattle health policy along with a demo on handling systems.

Johnny said: “We are grateful to the Baillie family at Calla Farm, who are kindly hosting this event to allow farmers to view the cattle involved during their second summer at grass, and hear from those directly involved in the work.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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