East Coast Viners is advising growers in the North East that the dry start to the summer, followed by a wet July, means that they will need to keep a close eye on calf nutrition.
Ruminant nutritionist, Steven Eddie, said: “With an exceptionally dry start to the summer, grass growth for many farmers in the north-east was limited. With pastures having suffered a period of stress, swards tended to bolt producing seed heads, leading to a reduction in the nutritional value of the grass available to the grazing stock.
“Farms that suffered during the dry spell may have seen either reduced silage yields or a slow regrowth leading to the difficult decision to sacrifice cutting fields to grazing stock. With the weather turning wetter into July, grass growth improved with many of the earlier cut silage fields quickly turning green and producing a promising second cut or aftermath for grazing, but this may have been too little, too late for some.”
He advised that feeding youngstock a blend or nut could be the answer to bolstering growth and will pay dividends at weaning and beyond. “Pre-weaning, it serves well to introduce a creep feed to youngstock, building frame with protein and encouraging growth with energy. Creep feeding before weaning allows youngstock to adapt to a new food source, reducing stress and improving condition and growing ability come weaning time.”
From three months, calves can be fed a nut containing 17% protein, supporting growth when grass is lacking in nutrients. East Coast Viners can also supply locally sourced cereals as a sustainable source of starch.
Second Stage Calf Nuts have an energy level of 12.7 ME and include high-spec vitamins and minerals. Plant extracts and essential oils can support feed conversion ratios (FCR), daily liveweight gain (DLWG) and minimise methane emissions, the company states, with dark grains, sugar beet and soya included in the formulation to aid framing.
“Improving conformation of youngstock with a high protein nut or blend when their FCR is efficient, means that growth potential can be achieved when ME values are later increased, improving fleshing ability and fat cover on finishing cattle,” said Mr Eddie. “Cereal prices have come back on last year and getting cattle on to concentrates early ensures consistent FCRs and strong DLWG without diminishing profit margins.”
For farms using home-grown cereals, this can be mixed with a concentrate blend and a concentrate nut for a cost-effective protein option. Slowly reducing the protein inclusion and increasing the cereal content as the cattle grow will enable store buyers and finishers to achieve target growth rates.
Mr Eddie added: “We encourage livestock farmers to analyse silage during September, a service offered by ECV, enabling a tailored feed plan to be created to suit the needs of their cattle and cereal availability. Every farm will be different, so the key is to keep talking to your nutritionist and to plan the most efficient balance to get the best results for your systems.”
He further recommended that growers do a stock take as recent years have not created a carryover of feed. This can help to measure whether more forage is required and if it may be wise to keep cows tighter and have calves growing on concentrate to avoid purchasing fodder in early 2024.
For more information go to www.eastcoastviners.co.uk