A Winter Boost for Beef
There’s no two ways about it, winter pasture offers cattle little or no chance for growth. Bare maintenance is often where it’s at. For the farmer, the financial return on their pasture over the winter is about as poor as it gets. All hope is vested in the vitality of spring pasture to rapidly finish the animals for a good sale.
De-stocking can be an option. While you’ll miss out on premium spring prices, it can be useful in mitigating any damage to wet pastures from pugging and compaction.
SealesWinslow Science Extension Officer, Paul Sharp, suggests looking beyond ... towards growth. His advice is to draw on the cheapest feed source first, but also to scrutinize it with a focus on quantity and quality. “Even if you have reasonable crop availability, it will likely be deficient in vital nutrients and minerals, leading to lower feed intakes and reduced growth rates,” Paul notes.
He makes a compelling case for supplementing with good-quality feed and offers realistic examples. Adding pasture silage, for instance, (see box, example 1) results in good improvements. However, the actual rate of growth will be limited by the available nutrients or minerals. Adding trace elements therefore makes sense; this is ideally done with a lick block that also promotes forage intake.
Where animals are fed on low-quality winter pasture, Paul recommends improving the nutrient level by adding a high-energy pelleted feed (example 2). This is a very efficient way to boost animal growth.
“It’s also prudent to examine your grazing strategies and their effect on overall quality of the pasture,” adds Paul. “If, for instance, inadequate grazing patterns, such as under-utilisation, resulted in poor pasture, then you’d best rectify that first.”
All in all, winter cattle growth is eminently achievable.