Recommendations for moving to an Autumn/Winter Feeding Programme

Animals on grass from late summer until mid-September should be achieving a weight gain per day of 1.0 kg on a sole grass based diet. However, this may not be the case across all Irish farms as forage offered may not be high in quality. As a result, live weight gain compromised.

The objective should be to provide leafy grass in front of beef animals to reach target daily gain and achieve target weights before housing in early November.

Knowing your market in terms of breed, sex of the animal and carcass weight required will influence your profitability performance, and targets must be set to achieve your goal as autumn approaches.

The grass quality and growth will dictate the level of supplementation required to achieve those objectives. As grass growth declines in autumn, it is important to bring supplementation into the total diet of the beef animal – particularly if these cattle are being prepared for sale i.e. finishing cattle or weanlings.

If finishing cattle from grass, it is important to offer supplementary feed in the final 6-8 weeks prior to slaughter as the feeding value in grass declines and energy requirements increase. A general guide of between 2-4 kilograms of concentrates per head per day is classified as optimum for best response, providing a high quality pasture to finishing cattle in the last 6-8 weeks.

A high quality coarse ration or concentrate with a high energy level is best suited here. [ADD LINK]

Spring and autumn born calves from the suckler herd should be offered supplementary feed 4-6 weeks prior to being weaned, and should be consuming up to 1 kilogram of concentrates at weaning.

Higher levels of meal are justified for high quality bull weanlings, particularly if grass is limited or is not of high quality. It is best to offer a maximum of 1 kilogram of concentrates for weanlings at grass, as increasing the amount above this will lead to a reduction in forage intake, while increasing live weight and carcase gains at a progressively diminishing rate.

It is also important to make sure that young weanlings are not stressed around time of weaning. They should have had regular dosing for worms, and housing facilities should be well ventilated for risk of pneumonia in autumn at housing.

The easiest and most simplistic way of supplementing cattle is offering concentrates – whether it is indoors or outdoors. If you decide to keep weanlings, it is important to set targets – a live weight gain of 0.5-0.6 kg/day is acceptable for the first winter.

Depending on the quality of grass silage a 16% crude protein coarse ration or concentrate may need to be offered as per table below:


Grass Silage DMD (%) 60 65 70 75
Weanlings 2.0 – 3.0 1.5 – 2.0 1.0 – 1.5 0 – 1.0
Finishing Steers 7.0 – 8.0 5.5 – 6.5 4.0 – 5.0

Table 1. Concentrate supplementation (kg/day) required for weanlings to achieve 0.5 kg and for finishing steers (600 kg) to grow at 1.0 kg, live weight/day when offered grass silage at varying dry matter digestibility (DMD) to appetite.

Ingredients in concentrate type must be cereal based such as maize, barley or wheat to achieve good carcass weight gain and feed conversion efficiency. All rations and concentrates must be balanced for protein, energy, fibre and minerals.

When considering individual ingredients in a coarse ration or concentrate, the key consideratn is that net energy and protein level are matched to a particular range of animal. This should be gauged against expected daily intake, weight gain and conformation of the animal.

The feed efficiency of finishing cattle depends on weight of the animal, potential of carcass growth and duration of feeding period. When cattle are housed for finishing it is important to provide additional supplementation together with grass silage.

Careful attention must be directed towards mineral supplementation for all types of cattle in particular minerals for basic functions such as Calcium, Phosphorus and Sodium together for production of salvia for buffer capacity to reduce risk of potential acidosis outbreak.

If the decision is made to feed concentrates ad-libitum it is important to ensure gradual adaption of concentrates, minimum roughage inclusion to have correct rumen function, sufficient clean fresh water and always having constant feed in front of animals at all times.

There are a range of concentrates or coarse rations available from Connolly’s RED MILLS and careful selection must be chosen to the animal intended for feeding to get best results.