• Effect of concentrate feeding level in winter and turnout date to pasture in spring on biological and economical performance of weanling cattle in suckler beef production systems

      McGee, Mark; Drennan, Michael J; Crosson, Paul (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
      Three experiments were carried out to determine the effects of supplementary concentrate feeding level (Low, LC; High, HC) to grass silage and/or turnout date to pasture in spring (Early, ET; Late, LT) for a second grazing season on performance to slaughter of spring-born, weaned beef calves (n = 188). Experiment 1 comprised of two concentrate levels (0.5 and 1.5 kg/day). Experiment 2 comprised of two turnout dates (19 March, 9 April). Experiment 3 comprised of two concentrate levels (0.5 kg and 2.0 kg/day) and two turnout dates (22 March, 12 April). In Experiment 1, live-weight gain during the indoor winter period was 25 kg higher (P < 0.001) for HC, whereas during the subsequent grazing season it was 17 kg higher (P < 0.05) for LC resulting in similar (P > 0.05) total live-weight gain for both treatments. In Experiment 2, live weight at turnout to pasture was 11 kg lower (P < 0.001) for ET than LT, whereas 8 days after late turnout, it was 15 kg lower (P < 0.01) for LT than ET. This difference in live weight was still evident 28 days later (P < 0.01) but not (P > 0.05), subsequently. In Experiments 1 and 2, live-weight gain during the finishing period and carcass weight, conformation and fat scores did not differ (P > 0.05) between the treatments. In Experiment 3, at turnout to pasture, HC were 35 kg heavier (P < 0.001) than LC, and ET were 12 kg lighter (P < 0.05) than LT, whereas 8 days after late turnout, ET were 13 kg heavier (P < 0.05) than LT. There was a concentrate level × turnout date interaction (P < 0.05) for live weight at the end of the grazing season, whereby the LC, LT treatment were lighter than the other treatments, which did not differ. Live weight at slaughter and carcass weight did not differ (P > 0.05) between the concentrate levels, whereas they were higher (P < 0.05) for ET than LT. Economic and stochastic analysis of Experiment 3 indicated that, in the context of whole-farm systems, (i) feeding HC was dependent on date of sale such that only where progeny were sold at the start of the second grazing season, net farm margin (NFM) was increased, (ii) ET only increased NFM where progeny were retained through to finish and, (iii) taking progeny through to finish was more profitable than selling earlier in the animals’ lifetime. In conclusion, subsequent compensatory growth at pasture diminishes the growth and economic advantage from concentrate supplementation or early turnout to pasture, of young late-maturing cattle.