The goal of rounding off (fattening up) is to achieve as much body-mass gain as possible during a period of about 100 days.
The biggest production losses are usually associated with calves that struggle to adapt to the feedlot environment.
There is an alternative system, where bought and even bred weaner calves are introduced to and prepared for the feedlot in the veld or in larger camps over a shorter period; this introduction period provides an opportunity to sort out handling, health, stress and nutrition issues. In this system, processing also causes significantly lower stress levels than when intakes happen in the traditional way in the feedlot.
Here’s how to run the system:
1. Bring the cattle to the area (kraal, pastures, veld etc) and supply clean fresh water and lots of high quality hay. If round bales (1.5m) are fed, one bale per day will do for 20 heads of cattle.
• Always handle the animals in such a way as to cause minimum levels of stress.
• Remember the three R’s when introducing the cattle – rest for 12 to 24 hours, rehydrate to counter moisture losses during the transport of the animals, and supply the rumen with balanced nutrients to boost the animals’ energy as soon as possible.
2. Provide 2 to 2.5kg natural fodder per head. It is beneficial to provide fodder that contains an antibiotic growth stimulant. Ensure that there is at least 30cm between the individual animals at the feeding troughs. The height of the feeding side should be 40cm. First put the fodder in the feeding trough, and cover it with the hay – this will teach the animals to forage through the hay for the fodder. Feed them once a day so that the fodder remains fresh. Remove sour and mouldy food daily.
3. Kraals or camps should be large enough to allow easy movement, but they should not be too large. About 40m2 per animal is sufficient in low-rainfall areas and in other areas during the dry seasons. In high-rainfall areas the area per animal should be doubled. But beware of camps that are too large – the animals will just get lost and struggle to find their way to the feeding troughs. It’s best to put watering and feeding troughs against the fence. Some animals patrol the fences during the settling-in period and just after weaning and will thus find the food and water without hassle.
4. Process approximately 24 hours after weaning. Consult a veterinary surgeon to ensure that the correct vaccination programme is followed for the area. Try to limit dust and mud during processing, and limit activities during excessive heat.
• Vaccinate with IBR, P-3, BVD and BRSV – the current recommendation for an adapted live vaccine. Repeat after two weeks. Carefully follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
• Vaccinate against clostridial diseases – seven-way vaccine is recommended. Repeat after two weeks. Carefully follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
• Administer vitamin A, D, E complex – carefully follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
• Deworm (orally or by injection). Carefully follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
• Treat for external parasites. Carefully follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
• Dehorn if necessary.
• Castrate bulls. (In some cases the testicles are just moved up and kept in place with an elastic band.)
• Number with ear plates.
• Supply roughage/long hay throughout processing. Group the animals according to gender and keep them in these groups until they are slaughtered so that there is minimal disturbance to the social order.
5. The animals should be scanned every day, and all sick and morbid animals should be placed in a separate camp. Treat with antibiotics depending on the symptoms. Administer vitamin B and sulpha bolus.
6. There are many feed programmes that can be followed. The easiest is to feed hay with a fodder obtained from the area at a ratio of 1 to 1.5% of body mass. The protein content of the fodder depends on the hay’s protein value. The same applies to cattle that graze. During the warm months it is recommended to feed ±30% of the diet in the early morning and ±70% in the early afternoon. Animals eat very little or not at all during the warmest time of the day. Moist fodder is negatively influenced when it remains in feeding troughs during the heat of the day. It is important, however, that animals take in the daily portion of a balanced diet in 24 hours. Besides a balanced diet, coccidiosis control is important; administer at least twice a day with fresh food.
7. Provide cool and clean drinking water, approximately 45l per animal per day will suffice.
8. Animals that have been fed for a minimum of 45 days are considered feedlot ready – they have adapted to the camp environment, know what feeding and watering troughs are and are able to eat from them. These animals have also been processed since the beginning.
It is very important to allow animals to adapt slowly and in the correct way:
• Day 1-5: Limit full diet to 1.8% of body mass per animal per day plus free amounts of long hay.
• Day 6-10: Full diet plus free long hay.
• If animals are fully adapted and show no signs of acidosis, the full diet can be fed freely after day 10.
Feed intake is a rough indication. Intakes on diets that are too dry (without silage) are usually limited. Add 5-10% (±100kg) water per ton. Maize needs to be at least ground or rolled. Only 60% of whole maize is utilised. If maize is so cheap that it is bought simply to fill the stomach, it can be used whole. As soon as one of the brans becomes cheaper, it should rather be used as a filler, and then the maize’s energy value can be fully realised. Maize can be fully or partially replaced by small grains or hominy chop. For younger animals it is advisable to feed roughage and power fodder mixes separately, with both elements being provided freely. For the rounding-off phase it is, however, preferable to provide the roughage and power fodder as one complete mix. The power fodder should constitute 20% of the complete mix during the first 30 days, and 15% during the last 30 days. The fodder should be freely available. Without the roughage component, these mixes prepare the rumen for feedlot diets and are supremely suited to supplementing natural winter grazing or to getting animals on condition. Feed at 1-2% of the body mass on summer or winter pastures, or camps with long hay. This fodder contains ionophores and additives to limit acidosis and improve feed conversion ratio and growth.