Cattle Feeding Guide
The cow's natural diet consists of grass and they can maintain themselves on grass alone. However, they will soon lose condition on this unsupplemented diet. For good all year round productivity generous and careful feeding is required from calfhood right through the animal's life.
As a rough guide a cow of average size (a Guernsey) will need a minimum of 7kg of hay per day, whilst a Holstein or a Friesian will need a minimum of 9kg. A Dexter will need a minimum of 5kg. The cow will need hay even if she has access to grass as there is little or no feed value in winter grass. Alternatives such as silage, roots, feeding straw, sugar beet tops, brewers grains, brassicas, and other feedstuffs such as apples can be used to partially replace the hay ration. Do be careful though, as the feed values of these vary, and there may be drawbacks. Sugar Beet tops should have been wilted for at least 10 days or they will have a profound effect on the cow's bowels!
Every calf should be allowed to suckle from its mother at least four or five times a day for the first four days of its life. This is essential in order for the calf to receive adequate colustrum from the cow's milk. Without this colustrum the calf will not receive the concentration of antibodies which will give it vital protection from disease in these early stages.
After weaning and for the next eight weeks, the calf's diet will consist of milk (or milk substitute) three times a day, water, hay and Cattle & Calf Mix. Initially only small amounts of concentrate feed should be fed (115g or 4oz daily), gradually increasing to 1.3kg (3lb) at eight weeks.
At approximately five weeks calves can be changed over to Calf Rearing Pencils, or if desired, can remain on Cattle & Calf Mix.
At six to eight weeks they will be able to do without their milk feed and manage on water, hay and concentrate feed. Quantities of mix or pencils can be steadily increased to 2.3kg (5lb) at six months.
New calves will hardly touch hay or concentrate feed for the first few days, but will then become positively interested and start to demand more. Be careful not to give in to their demands as they will overfeed if given the opportunity, and this may lead to diarrhoea or even sudden death.
Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Feeding Young Livestock
Youngstock (weaned calves and older animals which have not been mated or penned for fattening) are fed in much the same way. At grass they only need a small feed to keep them interested, together with hay in the autumn, depending on their condition.
They should not be allowed to become fat, and whether they are housed or kept out, they only need enough concentrates (Cattle & Calf Mix or Calf Rearing Pencils) in addition to their grass, hay, and clean straw to keep them in reasonable condition.
Introduce Beef Finishing Pencils from the age of about twelve weeks of age. Bullocks gain condition and fatten very satisfactorily if their feeding is kept to a normal level until they are twelve months or more, when their rations can be increased steadily up to their killing weight. The resulting carcass will be well-fleshed and not over-fat.
Beef cattle may be ready for slaughter at 360kg (800lb) in just over a year; at 450kg (1000lb) at eighteen months old, or at 500kg (1200lb) a few months later.
In addition to hay or silage, their rations can gradually be increased from 1.3kg (3lb) of Beef Finishing Pencils a day, up to 3.5 to 4.5 kg (8 or 10lb) for the older animals. Silage may be increased from 9kg (20lb) a day, up to a maximum of about 22kg.
Dairy cattle are fed a basic ration for maintenance of grass or hay and approximately 1.5kg (3 or 4lb) of Dairy Pencils for every 4.5litres (1 gallon) of milk they produce. The time of year affects the feed value of grass to a great extent, and each cow's requirements vary according to milk production and time of calving, so it is particularly important to adjust the diet to suit each individual animal.
For more information on Smallholder Range products or advice on feeding please call the Smallholder Club FREE on 01362 822902