Finishing cattle–short sharp period of maximum gain
During finishing appetite falls in relation to bodyweight so intake should be encouraged through feed access, freshness and palatability.
- Drier rations stay fresh longer in the trough.
- Mix dry and wet rations to avoid very wet or very dry rations.
- Protein requirement should be met by microbial protein, but rumen microbes need a small amount of degradable protein. If insufficient rumination takes place adding a small amount of degradable protein will help. If the best cost option feeds available are high in protein the CP level can rise to a maximum of 17% before performance is compromised.
- Energy, particularly from starch, is all important to drive fermentation in the rumen. But at very high energy densities (over 13 MJ ME/kg DM) intake will be compromised.
- A small amount of long, hollow tube fibre, eg straw, which floats and scratches the rumen walls promotes rumination, prevents acidosis and improves feed conversion efficiency.
- Too much fat and oil coats fibre particles in the rumen and prevents breakdown by rumen microbes, leading to acidosis and reduced intake. Brewers grains, oil-coated chips and biscuit meal are good feeds but have upper inclusion limits. If two or more are fed together keep well below the upper limit.
- Requirements for major minerals are reduced but trace elements and vitamins are still important.
Keeping male calves entire only helps FCE if they are kept growing at maximum gain. In a store period, bulls have no better feed-conversion than steers.
Grass silage has no major role in bull beef diets. Small amounts help meet digestible fibre requirements, but large amounts will reduce energy density and extend days to finish.
- Minimise aggressive behaviour to promote profitability.
- Keep group sizes small – no more than 20.
- Avoid mixing batches which leads to fighting and riding.
- Keep bulls away from other stock, particularly breeding stock.
- Keep bulls away from noisy farm activity.
- Feed and bed in the morning and leave them in peace in late afternoon and early evening. In the evening, as the herd instinctively settles down for the night, if left undisturbed head butting and pushing occurs in an assertive, but non-aggressive way. If this does not happen stress and aggression will result in reduced performance.