Farmers operating an under-16-month bull beef system with animals born last spring should now have these animals on ad-lib concentrate levels.
Bulls should have done their growing at this stage, with the focus now on getting animals to the correct fat cover for slaughtering in late May or June.
Outlined are five tips to get spring-born bulls on to ad-lib concentrate and finished to market specification.
Bulls need a high-energy, low-protein ration to put down fat cover. A ration with protein levels above 13% will slow the rate that bulls deposit fat.
Choose a ration with a high cereal content to encourage animals to lay down fat, rather than lean tissue. Opt for ration with maize and barley listed as the first two ingredients.
Transition bulls on to a finishing ration and build up to ad-lib levels over 10 to 12 days. Start by replacing 2kg to 3kg of the growing ration with the finishing mix.
Increase the substitution rate by another 2kg to 3kg after three days. In another three days, bulls should be on a 100% finishing diet.
Increase concentrate by 1kg every three days until bulls are on ad-lib levels. Once bulls are at ad-lib, the feed trough should never run empty.
Provide a good fibre source for healthy rumen function. Straw is ideal, but keep it fresh to improve palatability. Hay and long-chop silage can also be offered.
Clean drinking water is often overlooked in an ad-lib finishing diet. If bulls are not drinking enough water, concentrate intakes will be affected. Lower feed intake will delay bulls from reaching adequate fat cover.
Keep in close contact with your factory agent this spring. Cattle are in demand, but bulls are always a harder sell than steers and heifers.
Find out early if they want bulls below 400kg carcase weight, or between 400kg and 420kg. Ask if they are happy to take animals at fat class 2+ or do they need to be fat class 3.
Give a time frame for slaughter date. Concentrate costs will rise further this spring, so you need to know you have an outlet to recoup the finishing costs on bulls.