Early focus on weanlings will pay off

Early focus on weanlings will pay off

While housed over winter, it is essential to focus on weanling nutrition to ensure growth targets are met.

Optimal daily live weight gain (DLWG) for an animal’s first winter is 0.6kg per day, with silage quality directly affecting this performance. High-quality silage will result in achieving goals with less concentrate feed.

However, with lower quality and lower protein silages on farms this year, most weanlings will require extra supplementation in the form of both energy and protein. In general, every 5 point drop in Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD) can see animals requiring an additional kg of meal.

Ideally, concentrates should be front-loaded when animals are first housed, and gradually scaled back before returning to grass in the spring. If silage has been analysed with a particularly low protein, it may be necessary to supplement with extra soya as well.

With increased feed costs this winter, accurate analysis and appropriate feeding will maximise the return on investment while producing animals returning to grass in the spring at target weight.

Know the benefits of the weighing scales

Weighing weanlings is a valuable management tool that is underutilised a lot on farms.

By weighing stock, they can then be grouped and fed accordingly.

Animals deemed to be underperforming should be grouped separately and fed extra concentrates to achieve a higher daily live weight gain (0.8kg vs 0.6kg in dairy heifers). As a result, underperforming animals will require 0.5-1kg more concentrate than their on-target counterparts.

Weighing again during the housed season allows the diets to be adjusted according to performance throughout the winter-feeding season. This is useful from both an economical and animal performance perspective, with targeted feeding ensuring a return on investment of feeding.

Vigilance is vital to maintaining health

Poor health can result in poor performance in weanlings. Varying temperatures and damp conditions mean pneumonia is one of the most significant risks to newly housed weanlings.

It is essential housing is warm, dry, and well ventilated with adequate space. Adequate headspace is also key to ensuring dry matter intakes are sufficient for the animals to reach their target weights.

Stress is also a mitigating factor, and care should be taken not to do too much at once with stock to minimise stress. Vaccination and dosing programmes should be applied under the advice of your vet, while bovine nutritionists can advise on the proper nutrition for your stock.

Nutrient deficiency has an adverse effect on the immune system, resulting in a poor response to vaccination and results in calves becoming unable to fight off infections.

A high-quality mineral should be fed alongside a rumen conditioner such as Ruminase to help keep optimal conditions in the gastrointestinal tract. Animals noted as being off feed or ill should be separated and treated as quickly as possible to protect the rest of the animals in the group.

Acting early with weanlings will give you the flexibility to have animals on target to meet their spring bodyweight efficiently and economically.

In beef animals, this can give you the option to finish younger animals from the shed rather than going back to grass if market conditions allow. While in dairy animals, this can provide the opportunity to get animals to grass earlier if early spring weather allows ahead of the breeding season.

Talk to Specialist Nutrition today about proactive management strategies for housing stock this winter.

Specialist Nutrition | Moist Feed and Forage Specialists

Call 051 833071