What to feed in the finishing stage of fattening
Beef production is about producing what the market wants and adjusting the factors that affect the quality of the carcass as ideally as possible.The quantity and quality of beef is also determined by the finishing stage when we allow well-grown animals to maximum meat yield and optimize fat cover. Let’s see what are the most important feeding rules during this period.
Feed is a major cost in all beef production systems and taking steps to improve feed-use efficiency will improve margins, and it is crucial in all growing and finishing systems. Nutritional, genetic, and management factors all influence this efficiency.
The quality of the slaughtered animal is determined by age, live weight, body composition, the liking and palatability of the meat. The determinants of quality are influenced by variety, sex, environmental factors, and perhaps mostly by feeding. Feeding affects the percentage of slaughter, the composition of the cut half, the color of the meat and tallow, the composition and crumbliness of the meat.
In this article, we discuss the final phase of fattening cattle. The finishing period is when animals are fed an energy-dense diet so that they will grow rapidly and add muscle/meat to their frame and optimize fat cover in preparation for slaughter. Feeding finishing cattle rely on a short period of maximum live weight gain to meet market specifications. Finishing cattle efficiently relies on maintaining high dry matter intakes (DMIs) and fast live weight gains. Calves can be finished on grass, grain, and grass, or high concentrate diets.
Feeding affects the composition of the carcasses and the whole body through changes in the composition of weight gain. As the daily energy intake and the energy concentration of the feed rations increase, the amount of frost in the cut halves increases, and the proportion of bone decreases. Inadequate protein supply impairs feed utilization, so during fattening, care must be taken to ensure protein requirements.
The key nutrients for the finishing animal
Energy intake is the main determinant of the live weight gain of cattle therefore, maximizing energy intake is important. Steers and heifers have a relatively low requirement for protein during the finishing period. Aim for 11-12% crude protein (CP)/kg diet dry matter (DM). For bulls that are growing (up to 550 kg LW) aim for 13-14% CP/kg diet DM. For finishing bulls (greater than 550 kg LW) aim for 11-12% CP/kg diet DM. Where forage makes up a large proportion of the diet, fiber levels are likely to be adequate. When feeding meals ad-lib, ensure that animals receive at least 10%-15% of their dietary dry matter like straw, hay, or grass silage, in order to maintain rumen function.
All finishing animals should receive appropriate minerals for the duration of the finishing period. For grass silage-based diets this is a general-purpose mineral. For diets based on alternative forages (e.g. maize silage) or fodder/sugar beet feed a maize/beet mineral. On ad-lib concentrate diets, ensure that the inclusion rate of the mineral matches the feeding rate of the ratio.
The water requirement of finishing cattle depends on the proportion of dry feeds i.e. concentrates in the diet. Animals on an ad-lib diet will have a much higher requirement for water than animals on a grass silage-based diet. Under normal conditions (free access to feed, silage, and water), an animal will consume approx 20 liters of water over a 24-hour period. This could be 1.5-2.0 times greater for ad-lib concentrate systems.
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According to the expert
„Good quality, optimally harvested, properly treated mass fodder is one of the most important components of beef cattle feeding”, says Ferenc Fridinger. According to the feeding expert, it is also necessary to feed with grain, because this is the only way to fatten cattle efficiently and economically.
Many farmers give the animal crushed grains. In this case, it is important to do a toxin test because contaminated grain can cause health problems, which also slows down the development of cattle. To prevent this, it is also worth feeding some kind of toxin binder to the animals.
The most common fodder feed is corn, but wheat, barley, oats can also enter the fodder, and cattle keepers are beginning to rediscover sorghum, which is an excellent source of fodder both when fed dry and ensiled. Soybean meal and sunflower meal are also important sources of protein, and industrial by-products and substitute products may come to the fore due to the global decline in feed prices.
Concentrates and premix
It is also important to meet the adequate vitamin requirements of the animals. Adequate proportions of calcium and phosphorus in the feed are important not only in dairy herds but also in beef cattle. Anyone who feeds premixes does not have to pay special attention to this, as these vitamins are basically included in the premix. But it is not necessary to mix the premix in the feed: there are premixes that can be given to the animal in the form of salt block.
Concentrates, which must be fed to the animals in a heady dose of 1-2 kg, also can be of great help in the finishing period – draws attention to Ferenc Fridinger. Cattle keepers in many cases do not use these products because they find them too expensive at first glance. However, once they start counting, they realize it’s worth the price.
It can be stated based on experience, that increasing the level of supplementary concentrate fed increases live weight and carcass weight gains, but at a diminishing rate. This means the performance benefit from each additional kilogram of concentrate is less and especially so at high levels of supplementation. In general, the growth response to concentrate supplementation is higher in animals of high growth potential than those of lower growth potential.
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Measure, measure and measure
Even in the finishing period, it is important to continuously monitor the weight gain of cattle and to measure at least one control group regularly. According to expert Ferenc Fridinger, if e.g. by feeding, we set a weight gain of 1.5 kg per day and only reach 1.3 kg or less, we need to intervene immediately and review the system.
Minimizing acidosis problems
Energy-dense finishing rations can increase the risk of acidosis in finishing cattle. There are several tips to avoid acidosis:
• Do not grind cereals into fine particles –crack the grain
• Ensure gradual adaptation to high-concentrate diets
• Always offer a source of long fiber, e.g. straw in a rack to encourage rumination. Intake is likely to be 1–1.5 kg/day
• Never let ad-lib feed hoppers run out so that animals gorge when they are refilled
• If not feeding cereals ad-lib, feed in small meals throughout the day. Avoid meal sizes greater than 2.5 kg/head/day for dry cereals
• Consider including neutralizing agents such as limestone flour or sodium bicarbonate in the ration
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