Does it pay to feed store cattle concentrates?
18th July 2017
Please note: the views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SellMyLivestock.
We all know grass is the cheapest feed for store cattle if managed well. Controlling the height of the sward is critical to maintaining grass quality and ultimately the utilisation of your grassland. By heavy stocking store cattle in the spring and reducing numbers as the season progresses grass height should remain at its optimum.
Growth rates of store cattle
Good growth rates i.e 0.8-1kg/day depending on sex/breed can be achieved from grass alone, which makes feeding concentrate to store cattle difficult to justify unless grass is in short supply or is of poor quality. Most store cattle must be allowed to grow a good frame before finishing or the carcass will not hit the target specification for the system they are being finished for.
When not to feed store cattle concentrates
Feeding concentrates to store cattle can rush them through the growing phase too soon where you can be left with a finished animal who is not heavy enough to pay. In particular, store heifers (especially native breed store heifers) can lay down too much fat too young when fed concentrates which can lead to penalties from the processor. Therefore in many systems, concentrate feeding is both expensive and potentially counter-productive.
When to feed store cattle concentrates
Concentrate feeding may be suitable when finishing young continental store bulls such as Limousins and Charolais who are able to convert supplementary feed efficiently into lean growth and finish quickly. When grass is high in protein (spring) it may be useful to feed a high energy concentrate to balance the diet and enable the animal to utilise more of the crude protein from grass, but the cost/benefit of this needs to be determined. Equally towards the end of summer, or in drought conditions it may be cost-effective to feed concentrates as grass quality declines which will ensure the animal continues to gain. It may also be useful to feed store animals later in the year, simply to get them used to the ration they will be consuming to be finished.
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