The current market is pushing towards a faster finished animal and lighter carcass weights, with greater muscle development and better conformation. Animals need to be fed in accordance with this to ensure maximum growth rates and FCE. Providing a continual supply of 'in spec' animals to suit the high demand for a specific market will result in premium price and better returns for the producer.
- During finishing appetite falls in relation to bodyweight, i.e. (FCE drops), therefore intake should be encouraged through feed availability, freshness and palatability.
- Requirement for major minerals is reduced but inclusion of trace elements and vitamins is essential for maintenance of animal health and performance. High levels of Vitamin E can maintain red colour of meat to reduce oxidation and extend shelf life.
- Consumption of adequate roughage is essential for rumen function in finishing systems. Cattle require at least 10% of DMI as roughage. Shorter straw chop length is critical to avoid sorting and ensure straw is actually consumed (2-4 inches).
- Inclusion of yeasts is a good insurance against acidosis and feet problems. Yeast is most efficient at optimum rumen pH, therefore inclusion of buffers maximises potential rumen health.
- Avoid build up of stale feed in troughs and aim to feed fresh, consistent ration every day at approximately the same time.
- Monitor variation in dung consistency as this is a good indicator of rumen health.
- Heifers should be finished in the shortest time (60-90 days) as they lay down fat earlier than steers or bulls. If needed use a higher protein and a lower energy dense diet to maintain lean muscle and avoid heifers becoming over fat.
- Finishing steers is a similar system. Finishing period should be approximately 100 days. This requires a lower protein diet with higher starch levels. Boosting energy density can help achieve desired fat covers in more extreme animals. Products such as Maxfat can help achieve this.
- Due to increased testosterone production, bulls produce more lean tissue and have a higher protein requirement. They also need a longer finishing period of up to 120 days due to their growing potential.
- For diets fed over 100 days, aim to boost intakes for last 4-6 weeks. Raise the feeding level, increase starch content and reduce protein to give better finish. Bypass fat such as Maxfat can be a useful addition.
- Lameness should be controlled by the regular use of foot baths, hoof trimming and properly balanced diets. The inclusion of Biotin or Hoofcare in diets can help harden hooves.
- To evaluate performance and profitability, record keeping is vital. For each animal record live weight gain over the finishing period and quantity of feed consumed to calculate Feed Conversion Efficiency.