Meeting the new weight specifications
Charolais cross steers can be fast finished within the new weight specification according to the Watson family’s system at Darnford, Banchory, Aberdeenshire.
Their latest crop of steers achieved the following performance.
Table 1: Darnford steer performance 2016
|Finished age (months)||Est DLG (kg)||Ave DDWG (kg)||KO%|
|Charolais cross steers ave||380.62||16.76||1.28||0.76||58|
Source: MacIntosh Donald
The following scatter graph demonstrates how the Darnford steers consistently achieved beyond target performance
The Darnford system: key features
Charolais has been the preferred terminal sire for over 25 years. Bulls are selected initially on visual appraisal for feet and mobility, and then from the breed’s top 10% and in particular for weight EBVs.
Damline, Salers. Heifer replacements are selected for size, feet, temperament and maternal qualities.
Split calving herd: a 12 week calving period is maintained in the spring calving herd, and over nine weeks in autumn, to help simplify management. Steers and heifers are separated at eight month weaning enabling a tailored nutrition programme which takes in to account their very different requirements. All animals are allowed to grow to achieve adequate frame size before being intensively finished.
All diets home mixed using the same basic ingredients – homegrown forage and cereals combined with cost effective bought in by-products. The key is formulating diets specific to age, weight and gender, consequently they offer flexibility to vary starch and protein levels at key stages of development. See Table 1. Herd nutritionist, Harbro’s David MacKenzie offers the following pointers.
- Calves: low-starch creep feed to avoid early fat deposition.
- Yearlings: reasonably high protein diet, 15% to 17% CP, with limited starch, to encourage lean growth and frame development.
- Cattle are turned out for a limited three month grazing period and set stocked, followed by housing in early August. They are introduced to full finishing rations after they reach 500kg liveweight.
- Steers: low protein, high starch finisher.
- Heifers: higher protein, lower starch finisher
- Both steer and heifer diets are formulated with limited forage and balanced with cereal and dark grains in order to achieve the correct fat cover and meat yield.
Table 1: Darnford herd diets
|DM %||ME/kg DM||CP%||FCR||Main diet components|
|Calf creep||86.00||12.50||18.7||3.5:1||Maxammon alkaline treated barley, distillers dark grains, sugar beet, minerals plus yeast and Rumitech|
|Yearling steer||47.00||12.70||15.8||9:1||TMR: grass silage, alkaline treated barley, distillers dark grains, sugar beet, minerals plus yeast and Rumitech|
|Finishing steer||65.00||13.00||13.5||9.2:1||TMR: limited forage, increased treated alkaline barley, distillers dark grains, sugar beet, minerals plus yeast and Rumitech|
|Finishing heifer||60.00||12.90||15.5||8.4:1||TMR: limited forage, treated alkaline barley, distillers dark grains, sugar beet, minerals plus yeast and Rumitech|
Measuring and monitoring
All cattle are weighed and benchmarked – at birth, at eight month weaning and thereafter at six weekly intervals until reaching target finishing weight.
Closed herd, member of the SRUC Premium Cattle Health Scheme, own herd health plan reviewed annually with the farm vet.