Switch to forage feed supports carcase weights

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

By Felicity Rusk

Last year, UK prime average carcase weights tracked above 2018, supported by concentrate feeding through the winter, and ample grass growth through the summer months. This trend has continued into this year, with January carcase weights averaging 3.7kg/head (1.1%) heavier than in the previous year.

Heading into winter, silage was looking positive in terms of quality and quantity, a stark contrast to the previous year. As such, most producers will have moved back to a forage based system.

What is significant is that even though producers have moved back to a more forage based system this winter, they have still managed to finish cattle to heavier weights compared to the high concentrate feed period.

It is also likely that the milder temperatures we have experienced this winter have supported growth rates, as animals will not have had to exert as much energy in maintaining core body temperature.

Looking ahead, it is likely that carcase weights will remain elevated while this season’s silage stocks are being fed out. With this winter being one the of wettest in recent memory, delays to turning stock out due to wet ground conditions could mean a longer period of silage use. As always, when the grass-growing season starts, and when it can be accessed will be a key factors affecting carcase weights later on in the year. If we do not see the same level of grass growth as we did last spring, we could see carcase weights drop back.


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