Out-wintering Store Cattle
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.
Out-wintering store cattle is often overlooked as a viable option to housing. Native and Native X store cattle are traditionally suited to this option, with breeds such as the Galloway, Highland, Longhorn and Welsh Black excelling in these systems. Hardiness, thick winter coats and good legs are all attributes of these breeds which lend themselves to out-wintering and with a strong and rising demand for native bred beef it is clearly a system which deserves some thought from beef finishers.
Benefits of out-wintering store cattle:
- Lessen stress of housing and close mixing and therefore reduces the pneumonia risk.
- Poor ventilation in store cattle sheds is often linked to disease, when outside the disease risk is therefore minimised. In instances where disease does occur in store cattle the spread is reduced.
- This ultimately makes store cattle finishing more efficient by improving daily live weight gain and reducing time to finishing.
- Lower bedding costs (particularly in areas where straw is less available).
- Lower feed costs, and possibly less reliance on concentrate.
- Sheds can be used directly for finishing or for other enterprises such as lambing ewes.
- Can have some environmental benefits.
Is your farm suitable for out-wintering store cattle?
Free-draining soils are the best option when selecting fields to out-winter stores on. Heavy land is much more likely to be paddled up, this can cause various problems, amongst them: compaction, water pollution and an increased risk of diseases such as liver fluke.
Ground which is less intensively farmed tends to lend itself to store cattle wintering, particularly sloped land which is often resultantly free draining. Not to mention, ground which has been spread with slurry or fertiliser is often quicker to become poached up as the ground tends to be softer. Good shelter is also an important consideration for out-wintered store cattle which again may make rough grazing an attractive option for out-wintering.
Proximity to both the farm and to emergency supplementary fodder is also critical to store cattle welfare. You need to be able to access your store cattle in extreme weather and be able to meet their feed needs, fields close to hay stores or with good access therefore represent the best choices. In terms of time, cattle do not want to be so remote that they take up a lot of time locating and checking. Suitable handling facilities are also more important as cattle which interact with humans less and more likely to be flighty and difficult to catch.
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