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Choosing the right system in beef production

In planning a beef production enterprise, the choice of production system is critical as the system will affect the profitable and stability of the enterprise. 
Depending on marketing strategy and information and the availability of resources (pastures and additional supplementary feeding), the following production system can be implemented. 

Extensive – A production system characterized by production of beef cattle on large farms in regions where the grazing capacity tends to be lower and more hectares per animal are required for production throughout the season. Supplementary feeding primarily consists of different licks as determined by the nutritional variation between seasons and production stages of the different categories of cattle on the farm (cows, heifers, steers, bulls). There are 3 options, namely:

Weaner production:

A system where a cow herd is kept and calves are marketed between 6 months and 9 months of age. The size of the cow herd depends on the grazing capacity available to sustain the cows throughout the year during pregnancy and lactation.

Steer production:

Bull calves are castrated and left on pastures or veld up to the age of 12 months to 20 months when they are marketed. The marketing age of steers determine herd composition.

Oxen off veld:

In this system the marketing age of the oxen determine the herd composition. Fewer cows are kept, as oxen will stay longer on the farm and must be considered in the calculation of pastures and/or veld available.

Semi-extensive – A production system characterized by production of beef cattle on large farms or medium sized farms in regions where the grazing capacity may vary more between seasons. With these systems there is usually the potential to make use of crop residues or planted pastures or additional feeding to finish the steers off the veld. Supplementary feeding may include different licks and or additional concentrate feeding. There are 3 options, namely:               

Weaner production:

A system where a cow herd is kept and calves are marketed between 6 months and 9 months of age. The size of the cow herd depends on the grazing capacity available to sustain the cows throughout the year during pregnancy and lactation.

Steer production:

Bull calves are castrated and left on pastures or veld up to the age of 12 months to 20 months when they are marketed. The marketing age of steers determine herd composition.

Oxen off veld:

In this system the marketing age of the oxen, determine the herd composition. Fewer cows are kept, as oxen will stay longer on the farm and must be considered in calculation of the pastures and/or veld available.

Intensive or Feedlot – A production system characterized by production of beef cattle in a feedlot where cattle are fed well formulated high concentrate commercial rations. Intensive feeding may take place on farm in a feedlot or in huge commercial feedlot operations. There are 2 options, namely:

•             Weaners purchased or retained and fed to slaughter standards over a relatively short period.

•             Weaners are left on pastures up to the age of 12 months to 15 months and finished in feedlot conditions as long weaners.

Grazing on veld. Usually steers have to remain on the veld until they are two years or older before a marketable carcass fat content is reached. Cows are frequently fattened on good summer veld and achieve good finish in a reasonably short period of time.

Planted pastures can be used for fattening and growing out animals and the growth rates achieved are better than on veld. The most common practice is the use of annual ryegrass, where weaners go on to the pasture at weaning in autumn and are ready for market by Christmas. Although summer pasture (e.g. kikuyu) can be used, this practice is often not successful because feeding starts in spring when the price of feeders is relatively high and finished animals are only ready in autumn, when beef prices are relatively low.

Information courtesy of AgriSuite App. For use or more information about the APP, contact info@mabalengwe.co.za

Choosing the right system in beef production
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