Feed management can yield profits for dairy beef cattle

Friday, 20 September 2019

Our outdoor dairy beef project has found careful management of feed can yield profitable cattle despite weather challenges.

The project looked at finishing Hereford-cross Holstein Friesian and pure Holstein Friesian calves on a fully outdoor system in 2017/18. Calves were reared conventionally and then turned out to graze for their first summer. They were outwintered on fodder beet and then moved back to the grazing platform for finishing in their second summer.

The Hereford-cross and Holstein Friesian steers in this study achieved a net profit per head of £114 and £100 respectively. Profitability is more impressive when compared on a per hectare basis with stocking levels at 2.5 LSU/ha, with Herefords achieving £328 per ha and the Holstein-Friesians £288 per ha.

The five key management criteria for success under this system are:

  • Excellent grassland management, including rotational grazing is required supported by immediate action in periods of poor grass covers, i.e. offering good-quality silage or supplementary feed
  • Careful transition management between diets
  • Winter grazing crops should be well planned and set up to ensure ease of management in poor conditions
  • Ensure a contingency plan is in place to maintain animal performance, health and welfare
  • Minerals should be provided, particularly if grazing brassicas which are low in trace elements

 The drought during the second summer meant supplementary feeding was required to increase the level of finish on the cattle which increased costs. Despite these challenges, all of the Hereford-cross and 85% of the Holstein-Friesian cattle were finished off grass at a fat class of 2 or better.

Cattle performance and carcase quality

 

Hereford-cross

Holstein Friesian

Age at slaughter (months)

24

25.4

Carcase weight (kg)

321

318

Killing-out (%)

51.6

50.2

Overall growth rate on farm (kg/d)

0.78

0.75

Fat classification

3‒4L

2‒3

 The project was led by RSK ADAS Ltd. In collaboration with Harper Adams University with additional support from the Hereford Cattle Society and Dunbia.

Read more about our research project Calf to Carcase on a Low Cost Outdoor Forage System
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