How to make bought in cattle thrive this winter

1st October 2018

How to make bought in cattle thrive this winter

Many people are starting to purchase cattle and house cattle for winter finishing. This is a very stressful period for cattle particularly those bought from the market and being taken straight into the feedlot.

From having spent 10 hours standing in a strange environment with lots of noise and commotion at the mart, they are then boxed into a trailer and taken to a new farm and bunged into a pen full of strange cattle more often than not on a hard concrete floor. On top of all this stress, the diet can be changed from 100% grass to TMR’s with high levels of grain often coupled with poor water quality and or restricted access to water due to high stocking density’s.

When all this is taken into consideration is it any wonder cattle often don’t perform in the feedlot? Even the cattle who don’t suffer a setback can have suboptimal performance due to underlying issues arising from the stressful introduction.

Ideally, cattle should come in from the market and spend the first few days in a fresh bedded pen with access to hay and unrestricted clean, fresh water.

Once the animal has settled, they can be vaccinated and treated for external and internal parasites. Ideally, cattle should have their first vaccine and parasite treatment before housing to help lower the stress burden.

Diets can be started off with 3kg/h/d of concentrates and built up by 1kg/h/d every 3 days thereafter in the absence of any upsets. Buffers and yeasts such as Mag 12 can be a good addition to help the animals adjust to the new diet and prevent any stalling and a good mineral/vitamin supplement to maintain a healthy thriving animal keeping intakes high and stress low.

Stocking densities are often overlooked, animals on an adlib meal system should have 20-30cm (weight dependant) feed space, this should be upped to 55-65cm (weight dependant) for TMR systems. This will improve intakes and resting times resulting in improved performance. The feed bunk should be a smooth, clean surface with refused feed cleared away 2-3 times per week. In feedlot systems seen in Texas cattle have a minimum of 20m2 for all animals, this won’t be possible in slatted situations but we should aim to raise this as close to 6m2 as possible for reduced pressure and stress on the cattle.

Water troughs should be deep (at least 7cm) and cleaned to perfection. The deep-water level will be more significant with poor water pressure as cattle are herd animals so they like to do things in groups. This includes drinking, remember that finishing cattle can consume up to 80L/H/D depending on body weight.

These points may appear simple and are often overlooked, but they are crucial to the profitability of your feedlot. So, do an MOT of your facilities and ensure the following points are being rigorously implemented.

  • Have a rest pen for cattle coming in from the mart with hay and water.
  • Have a health plan made in conjunction with your vet for new animals
  • Build animals up on feed gradually
  • The water trough should be immaculate and ~1 per 10 animals
  • Feed bunks should be a smooth, clean surface and cleaned regularly
  • Provide optimal feed space
  • Prevent overstocking, this is probably the biggest downfall of many feedlots and exacerbates all the issues above.

If you would like to discuss more on the management of bought in cattle this autumn, please get in touch with us to talk to one of our nutritionists on how to get the best of your facilities and maximise liveweight gain this Autumn.

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