How can you optimise your beef production in this strong market?

“The market and feed supply mean that 2017 should be marked down as a year for the beef breeding system to thrive, or at least it should be hard not to make improvements in cow wintering condition, calving spread and weaner live weights. I have recently enjoyed farmers reporting about calf weights and growth rates. It is also the point of year for the cows where they should be nearing peak body condition, and with bull sale catalogues starting to arrive for the up and coming sales there is plenty to discuss around what is the genetic direction of your herd.

Giving weaner calves the best start:

Whether that’s home bred or bought in ones there are some basic animal health and husbandry that can make a considerable difference

Yard weaning: The idea of yard weaning is to get calves used to humans and minimise stress during weaning. The process involves leaving the calves in yards for 5-7 days providing water and reasonable baleage (or other supplements) in feeders for 5-7 days and making sure you walk among the calves each day and the cows are out of sight.

This results in:

• Cattle that are easier to handle over their lifetime.

• Reduced chance of damage to people or equipment.

• Increased chance of superior early weight gain.

• Cattle that are likely to adjust more quickly to feedlot or cell grazing systems, improving the chance of superior weight gain.

In New Zealand trials the yard weaned cattle were 10kg heavier at the end of the week, and the paddock mob had not gained any significant weight all.

Weaner Calf Animal Health:

At weaning give a combination worm drench orally or Eclipse E injectable or Eclipse pour-on. Whilst calves are on their mothers’ milk based diet internal parasites do not cause many issues but once weaned it is a major handbrake on pasture based growth rates.

Minerals for weaners: it is hard to go past long acting selenium (Selovin LA) as a way to reliably sustain levels for the next 12months. Copper is also important. Copacap copper bullets are longer acting, but Coppermax injection is a good alternative going into the winter, especially if wintering on brassicas.

Covexin 10 in 1 (or at a minimum Multine 5 in 1) vaccine is well justified at weaning and again 1 month later. These vaccinations are critical if going onto to fodder beet.


  • Recommendation at weaning: 1 drench, 1 mineral (selenium),  1 vaccine (1st Covexin),
  • 5 weeks later: 1 mineral (copper), 2nd Covexin and drench if required.

The beef cow:

  • April is the peak of our beef cow pregnancy testing.  It is also a time to review BVD plans and get bull requirements sorted for the next season. 
  • When booking in your PDs ask about getting a BVD monitoring and mineral check done at the same time. If you book it with the office staff they can allow the vet a bit of extra time to ensure it gets done.
  • This season we are continuing with our commercial beef cow performance monitoring for the farms using the extra level of information recording. We can capture all your beef cow records digitally and email results and summary graphs back to you. I am expecting the condition score monitoring we did last year to look slightly different this year…

Dave Robertson BVSc/BSc