Growing / Weaning

Younger animals have the most effective feed conversion efficiency (FCE), as the animal matures this FCE decreases. It is beneficial to ensure that the animal's protein and energy requirements are met to ensure maximum growth potential. Improved performance over a shorter period of time reduces days to slaughter and production costs and therefore boosts profitability.

  • Feed management at all stages of beef production is crucial to meet market specification so it is essential to know your end market even at suckler calf stage.
  • Younger animals have the most effective feed conversion efficiency (FCE), as the animal matures this FCE decreases. Suckler cows should have good milk potential, and combined with grass and creep feed availability, there is good opportunity to produce excellent quality calves with maximum weight at weaning.
  • Timing of the introduction of a creep ration to calves depends on target growth rates, milk and forage availability. It should be introduced at least 4 weeks prior to weaning to minimise stress and avoid a weaning check. Feed level should be gradually increased until the calves are consuming at least 1 kg/day at weaning time.  
  • Availability of creep feed is critical for rumen development. To maximise intakes it is important to ensure the feed is palatable, dust-free and kept fresh. It should be a minimum of 16% protein, high in digestible fibre and relatively low in starch.
  • Vitamin and trace element content can boost immune status to help against potential health challenges at housing.
  • Implementation of a vaccination and worming program prior to weaning is advisable to maintain calf health and performance.
  • Aim to reduce other sources of stress at weaning such as de-horning, castration, and transportation. These procedures can heighten stress levels and therefore lower immune response and increase the risk of pneumonia.
  • Maintain weanlings on creep ration for at least a week before gradually transferring them to a grower ration.
  • Good dry housing with correct ventilation is essential. Ensure clean fresh water is available.
  • Avoid high stocking densities (>2m2/ head) as this increases spread of disease and has an adverse effect on growth rates and FCE.


Table 1 - Concentrate supplementation (kg/day) necessary for weanlings to grow at 0.5kg live weight per day when offered grass silage of varying dry matter digestibility.

Silage (DMD)

60

65

70

75

Concentrate
   (kg/day)

2.0 - 3.0

1.5 - 2.0

1.0 - 1.5

0 – 1.0