The benefits of resizing groups of cattle for optimal performance

Why resize groups of cattle?

With the challenging economic pressures currently facing the beef industry, what measures can be taken to ensure that ALL animals grow as quickly and well as they can? Joe Banks, our Ruminant Specialist discusses some of the key factors that support the theory that resizing groups of cattle can lead to better performance of all animals.

Making sure all the animals in the group are of a similar size when resizing cattle

It is really important that animals of a similar size are grouped together. Attention must also be given to the age of the animals to keep groups growing and finishing together. Grouping animals of a similar size reduces bullying/competing for feed space and/or access to fresh, clean water and ensures that pens are not too overcrowded. Smaller pens also provide a clear herd health benefit, as a manager, it is much easier to pick the ‘poor doers’ or sick animals out of a smaller pen than a heavily stocked pen. This comes with a proviso that there is still enough feed space for all animals to access feed, otherwise this becomes a limiting factor.

Provision of feed space is massively important and sufficient feed space must be provided to ensure optimal dry matter intakes and daily live-weight gains. As much with beef as ever it is with dairy. It is imperative that 24/7 clean, fresh water access is provided.

The video clip shows a selection of animals that are well matched. We don’t have any small animals that can’t get to food and also have plenty of access to clean, fresh water which, is doubly important for intensively fed cattle to maximise feed intake and keep daily live weight gains up, reducing the amount of time that cattle are on the farm (whether you are rearing cattle to sell as stores or taking them right through to finish).

The benefits of walking cattle

One of the things we spend a lot of time doing on-farm is ‘walking cattle’, we will be looking at different groups of animals, different ages, different sizes – one of the things I would definitely like to highlight is don’t be afraid to make smaller pens and break up larger groups. Put animals that aren’t as big in together rather than running large groups of mixed cattle sizes.

Quite often we will find when we split out younger or smaller animals that are less competitive on the hierarchy, they will actually do a lot better and make up a lot of ground when they are split out into their own size, less competitive groups. Resizing cattle allows for a more stable hierarchical group and improves the ability of these animals to access food and water. This is not the same for bulls, where possible keeping bulls in the same group thought their time on farm is preferable.

Never underestimate the effect of social and behavioural interactions animals have, on their ability to flourish and meet their genetic potential.

How can CMC help you?

Obviously, things are a little different at the current time due to the impact of Coronavirus but ordinarily, Joe or another member of the team would happily come out to your farm to discuss animal performance and suggest ways of altering group sizes to achieve optimal feed efficiency and daily live-weight gains specifically tailored to your farm infrastructure and personal goals.

Please contact a member of our CMC team today and we will be only too happy to help!

More about Joe

Joe’s biggest passion is for Beef and Sheep and he is continually developing his already extensive knowledge in this area. Joe’s aims are to help improve farming businesses, to guide them where possible to maximise profitability and utilise as much of their on farm resources as possible. This, he believes, leads to building a sustainable business and for him, a strong relationship with his customers.

Joe Banks

Joe joined with six varied years experience in the industry. In his career so far, he has worked in the retail, fertiliser and feed sectors of agriculture. He believes this gives him a unique outlook on farm. Joe’s biggest passion is for Beef and Sheep and he is continually developing his already extensive knowledge in this area. He believes in the power of grass and thinks it is one of the biggest undervalued resources on farm. He also sees that the younger generation are the future of our Industry and is very enthusiastic when engaging with the youth of farming in the UK.