Fattening Beef Cattle: Occasional Training Manual On Commercial Fattening Of Beef Cattle


FATTENING BEEF CATTLE: OCCASIONAL TRAINING MANUAL ON COMMERCIAL FATTENING OF BEEF CATTLE:  BY Prof. N. T. Ngongoni(2019)of ZOU IRITS, cell: 0773879816; e-mail:>ngongonint@gmail.com


Pen Fattening of cattle refers to the intensive feeding of cattle in confined areas so as to exclude moving around grazing

This practice involves intensive high energy feeding of cattle for the following reasons:-

(i)To increase the degree of finish (right proportions of muscle and fat in meat) in cattle to get high grades after slaughter.

(ii)It makes cattle suitable for marketing and slaughter at a young age which increases turnover.

(iii)The beef supply and demand curve creates seasonal price changes which farmers may want to take advantage of to increase economic gains in beef production.

On farms and in communities, it has also been used by speculators to quickly raise funds for a purpose such as school fees or building a farm house.

Duration of Fattening:

Normally it is 90 days (3 months). It depends on breed, age, sex, condition and initial animal mass. The maximum rate of gain is 1.8kgper day. If initial mass is 240 to be raised to 400kg then total gain in pens must be 160kg. Then if you divide 160 by 1.8 you get 90 days of pen fattening. The animals which weigh far less than the target initial mass will require long periods of feeding of up to 120-150 days to achieve ideal carcass masses. Heifers deposit more fat than steers and so they tend to finish earlier than steers. Temperate breeds grow and fatten faster than indigenous Zebu breeds and the latter are prone to laminitis disease affecting hooves. Cull cows and oxen produce less juicy fibrous meat; have a low feed conversion efficiency and take long to fatten. The primary use of cattle is generation of Animal Draught Power (ADP) in the smallholder sector so that they can only be disposed of after their use as source of ADP is over and logically after pen fattening but that is when the feed conversion efficiency is lowest. Minimum target starting livemass is 240 kg for weaners; 250 kg for 18 month olds and 275 kg for 2 year olds. For weaners, cattle farmers in Zimbabwe are encouraged to aim for carcass mass of 225-250 kg or a target livemass at slaughter of 400 kg or 475 kg for older cattle. The principle is that the longer the period cattle take pen fattening, the less the profit from the exercise. So young cattle showing high pre-pen growth rate will take shorter time to pen fatten, which reduces feed costs increasing profits.

Fattening Diets:

The diet energy density, quality and ingredient composition is very critical in any pen fattening programme

Snapped corn–based diet:

This diet forms a standard high energy diet. Snapped corn consists of a complete maize ear which means the cob and its grains including the husk or sheath. The sheath and the cob provide adequate proportions of roughage with no further increase needed. The maize grains are a source of readily fermentable carbohydrates which produce volatile fatty acids; acetic acid; propionic acid and butyric acid which are the resources channeled towards body fat synthesis. Protein concentrates are then added to make sure the crude protein content of the diet is 12-13%. The general composition of such a diet is such that it contains 70% cereal grain; 20% roughage and 10% of 64% protein source. Sorghum is a good substitute for maize because it contains more protein. Sugar-cane by-products are very good substitutes for maize. Silage based diets provide an ideal roughage but the energy value depends on the content of grain in the ensiled crop. There must be provision of readily available clean water at 50 litres per head per day plus a reserve supply 2-3 days emergency.The use of growth enhancers/promoters has been banned in Zimbabwe mainly to support our meat export to the European Union.


End Summary: Fatten young stock of correct starting weight for 90 days on a standard High Energy Diet ad libitum with water ad libitum too; to correct final live weight of around 400 kg. Caution; the home mixed Protein Concentrate called Henderson Protein Concentrate 1:9 per tonne Basis contains urea which is a Non-Protein Nitrogen (NPN). Hydrolysis of urea by rumen micro-organisms that use urease can produce Carbon dioxide and ammonia in excessive amounts which can be toxic if there is a shortage of volatile fatty acids and pH buffering saliva. The principle is to feed little and often or feed together with rumen fermentable carbohydrates to quickly form ammonium salts and convert to Rumen Mircobial Protei-n.


Mpofu, I.D.T. and Sibanda, I. S.(2000); Animal Nutrition 2. ZOU Module CASD 202. Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Management. Fattening Cattle, pp 87-93.

Beef Production Manual (1987). Cattle Producers` Association pp 72-86.


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