In the winter feeding phase of a lifetime study of spring-born cattle managed in a 20-month beef system, a total of four feeding treatments were imposed by increasing the level of concentrate supplement offered with ad libitum grass silage. The objective was to achieve a difference in live weight at the end of the winter of about 25 kg between food treatments. A multifactorial design was used with three animal factors — maturity (early maturing Hereford crosses v. late maturing Charolais crosses), sex (heifer v. steer) and method of rearing (suckled calves v. bucket-reared calves).
There were no significant differences between breeds but highly significant (P < 0·001) differences for method of rearing and sex. As a consequence live-weight differences at the end of the winter between breed types (18 kg) were less than the difference between the sexes (23 kg) and for method of rearing (25 kg) although all were highly significant. Although suckled animals had significantly lower growth rates they were still significantly fatter at the end of the winter as were heifers and Hereford crosses. Differences in dry-matter intake were reflected in growth rate.
Plane of winter nutrition had a highly significant effect (P < 0·001) on live weight and condition score at the end of the winter resulting in increments of about 23 kg and 0·12 units of condition for each level of feeding.
Interactions between the main production variables were not significant with the exception of feeding level and method of rearing. Suckled animals showed a significant (Y < 0·001) reduction in winter gain (proportionately 0·85 for that of bucket-reared animals) when offered the same diet. This reduction ranged proportionately between 0·25 and 0·08 for the lowest and highest daily levels of concentrate supplementation respectively. An extra 1 kg concentrates per day was required for suckled animals to achieve similar live-weight gains to bucket-reared animals.