BEEF farmers should be aiming to finish what they can at grass to reduce costs, but supplementation will be crucial this season to account for lower grass quality.

Lachie Maclachlan from Mole Valley Farmer’s Red Meat Team says grass covers may look bulky at present, but grass quality is generally lower than usual.

Fresh grass samples analysed in June by Trouw showed grass averaged 15.6% dry matter (DM) versus 21% DM at the same time last year. Energy content was also approximately 0.5MJ/kg DM lower.

This combination of lower DM and energy equates to significantly less potential growth rates.

In a 450kg animal consuming 50kg FW of grass this could potentially translate into 0.5kg less DLWG, but possibly as much as 0.8 kg DLWG. As grass naturally starts to drop off from July, this quality decline will also worsen.

“The trouble is, there is a lot of grass on farm, but if farmers don’t weigh, they have no idea of the quality of their grazing or what weight gain they are achieving from their grass.

"By weighing, this will inform the farmer if supplementation is required, depending on their target finish weight,” he said.

Mr Maclachlan recommends weighing stock at regular intervals, whenever is practical to enable any dips in growth to be picked up and addressed promptly.

“If you want to finish stock at grass, you need to think about supplementing now so you’ve got about 90 days before housing. Animals of over 450kg now should be eligible for finishing at grass,” he says.

Some native breeds may be able to finish off good quality grass alone, but generally he believes most producers would benefit from supplementing stock to ensure they’re away before housing.

Supplementation at grass still makes financial sense, with the total cost of finishing roughly around £1 a head a day including grazing and 5kg a head a day of concentrate priced at £150/t.

This is nearly half the cost of finishing inside, which costs about £1.45 a head a day, plus labour costs.

“Feed a concentrate with cereals, balanced with a small percentage of protein to bring total concentrate protein levels to about 13-15%.

"You also need to be careful to avoid acidosis issues because both grass and cereals are digested rapidly in the rumen,” concluded Mr Maclachlan

For more information on beef finishing and rations, call the Feedline on Tel: 01278 444829.