The mornings are beginning to have a crisp sharp edge and the nights are drawing in as summer creeps into autumn. We have started to bring cattle into the sheds from grass for the winter months. A good percentage have been successfully fattened outside on grass this year and I am hopeful that there are still a few to go away soon.

Today we have the ability to record and track a variety of different data about a specific animal, which varies from daily live weight gain, sire groupings and number of days grazed within the same field to mention but a few. All of the information, recorded via the animals EID tag, illustrates a clear picture when entered into the computer programme and can be used to influence choices made to aid improvement and highlight problems.

An example of where this information has clearly highlighted improved performance is in grazed fields. A comparison was done between both sheep and cattle grazed on fields of different ages, either young grass or 15+ year-old grass leys.

The increased daily live weight gain in cattle between those on young grass was double that to those on old leys. The figures speak for themselves and I feel reseeding fields of older grass to keep the availability of young, cleaner grass high would potentially allow more cattle to be finished solely off grass. This naturally would lower our feed costs – which could be as much as 25% – due to the number of head being brought in for winter.

By finishing a larger percentage outside on grass, the knock on effect would additionally see medical, machinery, labour and straw costs lowered. To allow all of the information gathered to be used most effectively, I sat down and clearly worked out what the end optimum weight would be for the cattle when they were ready to go away fat. I was then able to calculate what their daily live weight gain would have to be to achieve this and whether it was in fact possible.

The cattle can be fattened and away by 18months, but we have in fact had 40 cattle away recently that ranged between 15-18 months. By ensuring that the quality of forage we provide is at its optimum the cattle then have the best advantage to turn this into profit for us quicker.

Looking specifically into this with our lambs, I was able to make a precise comparison as all lambs are weighed and handled. One group went out onto a new reseeded grass field while the others went onto lush, older pasture. Both looked ample for grazing and appeared to provide appropriate quality for weaning.

After 3-4 weeks the lambs were weighed, the group grazing the new young grass had a average daily live weight gain of 0.33kg, ranging from 0.23kg to 0.46kg. The lambs grazing older pasture averaged 0.16kg and ranged from 0.047kg to 0.33kg. This shows a huge contrast between the two pastures. The best lamb from the old grass was only managing to reach the new grass average, in plain what I was able to clearly conclude, was that the nutritional value of young pasture greatly impacts on the finishing of stock.

We have introduced our cows and calves to the fodder beet and shaws which are being pulled fresh daily by hand. They also have been getting ad-lib straw which was baled and wrapped from under sown barley. This is rich in grass and the calves especially appear to be enjoying this.

Most of the ewes are still out on the heather hill, we hope to be gathering them in any day now and will use them to tidy up the outside of stubble fields. They will all be health checked before going to the tup.