Weaners need good quality feed when they lose access to their mother’s milk. The cow’s milk, rich in protein and energy, is very beneficial for the calf, but its production prevents the mother quickly falling pregnant again. For early weaning, at 3 to 4 months, the calf must be carefully prepared to accept solid feeds, otherwise there will be an extreme growth decline. The solid feed also needs to be digestible and have an adequate protein content.
In breedlots it is common for weaners to be separated from their mothers and provided with standard feedlot feed. In a SISKA system weaners are normally yarded for a week or two before being moved into a grass paddock. Both these strategies can be more successful and optimum growth rates achieved if the calves are provided with a high protein (14 to 15%) supplement (creep-feed) while still with the mother.
The selection of the protein source will differ for each location and depend on the base ration and the available supplement options. When properly managed, the provision of additional protein can greatly increase overall productivity, at a relatively low cost for each kilogram of liveweight gained, as outlined below.
Smallholder breedlot cooperative double their investment:
In Lampung, a group of smallholder farmers breeding BX cattle in breedlots were feeding rations that were relatively low in crude protein – around 11.5%. Yearlings of 170 kg liveweight were growing at around 0.48kg per head per day – a reasonable growth rate, but not outstanding. By adding 0.65kg/head/day of soybean meal (SBM) to the ration, at a cost of IDR4,900 per head per day, the crude protein concentration was increased to 14.5% and growth rates increased to 0.71kg per head per day.
Comparing the two diets, an additional increase of 0.23kg per head was achieved compared to the original feed provided. Given that in Lampung, finished cattle sell for around IDR45,000 per kg liveweight, an increase of 0.23kg is valued at IDR 10,350 which is double the investment of providing the SBM which costed the smallholders only IDR4,900. A good management decision improving increased profit.
Click here for more information on ruminant nutrition in IACCB's Cattle Breeding Manual.