Whether it be dairy heifers, prime lambs or finishing cattle, there are still many farms that rely only on stockmanship skills and “guesstimates” when selecting fat lambs or finished cattle. Many dairy farmers also rely on visuals alone when rearing heifers to calve heifers at 20-24 months.
This is a bit out of kilter with other livestock industries like poultry farming where regular weighing has been an integral part of successful pullet and broiler rearing for decades. As we usher in the new era of precision livestock farming, isn’t it about time you consider the benefits of regular weighing for your beef, sheep or dairy enterprise?
Why weigh your livestock?
Whether analogue or electronic, regular livestock weighing can help you:
- reduce the impact of livestock price volatility on your business by maximising output and reducing cost and waste
- achieve price premiums by meeting your livestock buyer’s specifications
- get an early warning of management or health problems in your farm livestock enterprise
Electronic weighing has particular benefits over analogue weigh scales (and guesstimates):
- you can weigh animals faster and more accurately
- you get instant daily liveweight gain figures to help you make decisions “on the spot”
- it’s easier to monitor livestock weights over several seasons to help make improvements in management practices or genetics
The benefits of electronic weighing are also more readily achieved through the use of electronic identification (EID). EID makes it easier and faster to record animal weights. In the case of bovine livestock, it’s also safer too as animals can be identified from a safe distance.
Electronic weighing for dairy heifer rearing
Electronic weight recording for heifers can be particularly helpful management tool if they are underweight and you need achieve a specific daily liveweight gain to get heifer growth rates back on track after a difficult grazing season.
Weighing for precision dairy cow management
While not always a common practice in the UK, there are clear benefits from regular weight recording:
- feeding management – better monitor the impact of changes in feed regime
- better management of breeding performance – monitoring weight loss after calving and pick up on which cows are continuing to lose weight after the early lactation period
- pick up on cows that are in the early stages of lameness or illness, which are not yet visible to the eye
Weighing for beef finishing enterprises
Using an electronic weigh head with or without electronic identification can help beef finishing enterprises improve their bottom line. Judging when stock are finished by eye may suit some farmers, but the clear benefits of regular weighing are:
- spot sick or lame animals earlier, shown up by a drop in daily liveweight gain. This represents lost potential. Spotting health problems sooner means improved animal welfare.
- you can better judge the right time to sell a beef animal – this is when the cost of each additional kilo of liveweight gain equals the sale price of that kilogram. It’s the law of diminishing returns at work, and you need to sell before the animal starts costing you money i.e. feeding an animal that isn’t gaining weight
Weighing for prime lamb producers
When selling direct to abattoir, regular weighing is a valuable tool to help you draw lambs at the earliest opportunity that meet your buyer’s specification, thereby saving on feeding/grazing costs and achieving the best price premiums. Maximising the output of your enterprise, while keeping costs down will help your enterprise cope with price volatility now and in the future.