With turnout fast approaching on many farms, it is important to manage store cattle pre-turnout to maximise compensatory growth and to avoid any stalling when animals hit grass.
Improving grassland management for beef cattle can significantly increase farm profitability, especially at a time when purchased feed costs are high. Utilising compensatory growth allows costs to be further reduced without affecting overall animal performance.
What is compensatory growth?
Compensatory growth is a natural occurrence where cattle have the potential following a period of dietary restriction, to undergo accelerated growth and enhanced feed efficiency when subsequently offered a higher plane of nutrition.
Compensatory growth can be exploited by a reduction in the energy density of feed offered during the winter months. Compensatory or ‘catch-up’ growth then will occur at pasture during the following grazing season.
Key considerations for implementing compensatory growth:
Studies have shown that a target average daily gain of 0.5 – 0.6 kg for steers and heifers during the dietary restriction period is sufficient to give an optimal compensatory growth response.
Young cattle (less than 150kg live weight) will not compensate to the same extent as older cattle and should not be restricted. When good nutrition is offered following restriction these young cattle are likely to grow at a similar rate or only slightly better than if they had not been restricted.
Cattle need to be at least 300kg live weight when the dietary restriction is implemented and they will demonstrate complete compensation when they are returned to a high plane of nutrition. The energy density of the diet can be restricted by reducing concentrate feeding by 1.5 – 2.0kg per head per day, for 4 – 6 weeks prior to turnout. Continue to provide access to ad-lib forage.
To fully exploit the compensatory growth response at pasture and fulfil increased intake requirements, sufficient highly digestible grass must be readily available, and well managed during the grazing period.
For more information on maximising compensatory growth, or other top tips on feeding management, please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds advisor or Matthew Armstrong on 07714 950585.