Optimise profits from beef cattle by weighing over winter to monitor daily liveweight gain while limiting waste through excess feed and bedding costs, advises Breedr.
Monitoring cattle performance through regular weighing provides accurate information on daily liveweight gain (DLWG) which can be used to predict growth rates, identify under performers, intercept health or feed issues and track bloodline performance. In addition, tracking DLWG over the winter period using Breedr’s free app could be an especially useful tool to avoid being caught out by rising feed and straw costs, says Alan Bason, Managing Director at Agricultural Business Analysis.
“Now is the time to look ahead and make critical decisions if you want to keep your cattle fed and in bedding through the winter months,” he explains. “Last year straw costs ran at approximately £40 a head to house until spring, and this year it’s forecast to be at least 50% higher.
“Working out how many cattle you can afford to keep will give you a head start, but when you understand which of your cattle will have the highest returns for the winter investments, this will give you the edge come spring.”
So what should producers do to provide certainty over the winter period?
“Work out how many tonnes of forage you have. This means testing and analysing it to understand what quality you are starting with,” explains Mr Bason. Also work out how many days straw you have, based on last year’s usage.
The next step is to weigh animals and estimate the quantity of feed needed based on 2.5% body weight per day. “If you are using a growth predictor tool like the Breedr app, you will be able to forecast the expected growth rate over the winter months, to give you a more accurate idea of how feed requirements will change as the animal grows,” he says.
For example, if an animal is gaining 1kg per day DLWG, then over the 200 day winter period, it will increase by 200kg. So estimate feed based on current weight, plus 100kg to get the average daily feed allowance.
Using both of the above calculations, producers can work out how many days feed and straw they have available, and when each is likely to run out. From this farmers can make informed decisions on their options.
“They could decide to keep animals out at grass for longer,” says Mr Bason. “Though this can preserve feed and straw rations, condition can drop off as the weather turns or if grass fails to meet their needs.” Alternatively, growers can buy in extra straw and forage, but the impact of this on annual gross margins will need to be calculated, he adds.
Farmers could also look to sell their lower performing cattle. “This is gearing up to be an expensive winter, so you only want to invest in animals that will give positive returns,” says Mr Bason. “Once you have completed two or more weigh sessions using Breedr (or uploaded past weight data) the app will give you an accurate understanding of each animal’s DLWG, and if their growth rate is increasing or decreasing.”
Removing the bottom performing animals and leaving only the top performers will put producers in a much stronger position, he says. “Reserving your precious forage and straw stocks for the cattle that will convert it best into profits will allow you to recoup in the spring.”
Win one of two Honda Quad bikes worth £7,999 each by weighing cattle this winter
+ Free £75 Tru-Test voucher when farmers add their animals to the Breedr App
To encourage and support farmers in optimising profits through regular weighing, Breedr is giving away TWO Honda quad bikes worth nearly £8,000 each to the beef farmers who log the best average DLWG between 1st November and 31st March in the free Breedr app.
With a category for animals under 12 months and over 12 months everyone has a chance to win, and to help farmers get started they will also be sent a £75 voucher to spend on Tru-Test weigh kit in Breedr’s shop once they add animals to their free Breedr account.
Breedr will be publishing a weekly leaderboard for each category throughout the competition and announcing the two winners at the start of April 2021.
How to enter
Step 1: Simply sign up for the free app and add your animals via BCMS, ScotID or APHIS. We’ll send you a £75 voucher to spend on Tru-Test weigh kit in our shop as well as a warm Breedr beanie to keep you toasty through the winter.
Step 2: Every time you weigh your cattle you will automatically be entered into the Weigh to Win competition. The top five farms based on average cattle DLWG will make it onto either of two leader boards each week; cattle under 12 months old and cattle over 12 months old.
Get set for success
If you are new to weighing don’t worry, we’ll help you every step of the way with tutorials as well as 1-2-1 support when you need us. You will also have free access to dozens of reports and webinars showing you how to improve your herd productivity and welfare during the winter for top profits come the Spring.
For more information visit www.breedr.co/weigh-to-win/