Imperceptible daily reductions in the weight gain of weaner calves could cost graziers up to $100 for each animal.
Facilitating the Taranaki Beef Focus Group's third field day this year, Totally Vets consultant Trevor Cook, of Feilding, told about 50 farmers that setting targets was the key to growing weaner calves.
Growing a weaner bull weighing 100 kilograms at November 1 to 537kg required a daily weight gain of 0.8kg over 18 months, he said.
"You know you're not going to get 0.8kg a day every day. So you need a table that shows the pathway that will get them to that weight. Then you can wrap a feed programme around the table to achieve that weight."
Cook said the table should show the pattern of daily weight gain to achieve the target, and a weight gain monitoring schedule should be established.
He said a 0.1kg/day reduction in weight gain in weaner bulls over one year lowered their value by between $70 and $100.
Such a reduction was imperceptible, and could be identified only by weighing. "Unless you monitor the weight, you won't know it's happening. A 0.1kg deficit in liveweight gain is common - it occurs on farm after farm after farm."
Feeding, mob management, grazing plans, genetics, weather and medicine all contributed to a productive weaner, measured by liveweight gain, carcass weight, stocking rate, dollars per carcass and dollars per ha, he said. Animal health and the feeding system's quantity and quality determined its performance and profit.
Cook said the health of a 100kg weaner affected its ability to gain weight. Calves that had a low intake of colostrum grew 12 per cent slower and had higher illness and death rates. Graziers should get to know good calf rearers, because they knew where to buy good calves.
Young stock required a high energy intake, particularly of sugars, he said. They would not grow if they were fed stem, dead pasture and summer rye grass, which were low in energy. Fast growth occurred when they had choice in their diet.
"Giving them choice is a powerful tool. Pasture quality does not equal pasture mass. If the pasture is of low quality, even if the animals eat as much as they like, they won't gain weight."
Cook said animals eating high- quality pasture gained 30 per cent more liveweight than those eating medium-quality pasture.
Feed budgeting gave farmers control over what was ahead. "Pasture utilisation is king in the dairy industry, and is closely linked with profit. The top dairy farmers use 85 per cent of the pasture they grow."
Graziers should also have an animal health plan that recognised the limitations worms imposed on animal growth, he said. Using a drench that was only 90 per cent effective would lower the animal's weight by 20kg to 40kg.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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