Maximising Beef Efficiency As A Testing Winter Approaches
31st August 2018

Pictured: (L-R) Matthew Armstrong, Ruminant Nutritionist with Beef farmer Robert Eakin and son James Eakin

Feeding management and nutrition is a smooth and effective operation these days on the Aughnacloy beef farm of Robert Eakin.

A few years ago, Robert was experiencing problems with poor cattle thrive and extended finishing periods which ultimately was a costly combination. Robert realised the nutrition on his farm needed more attention. As happens on many beef units in the country, it turned out that purchased cattle were being put on to the finisher ration too quickly. This caused a digestive setback and increased the time taken for rumen bugs to become accustomed to the new diet. The consequence was to reduce Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG) in the early stages, which delayed finishing thus increasing cost to finish.

For most cattle, moving to a finishing diet will involve much higher starch and concentrate feed rates. The rumen bugs require three weeks to adapt to this much more intense feeding regime. Without a transition period, cattle are often observed to reduce feed intake, stall or lose weight due to acidosis despite the traditional signs of clinical acidosis not always being obvious. Robert decided on a complete overhaul of his transition management applying a “three-week step up phase which has settled cattle quicker and given my cattle improved performance”.

Nutrition and Rumen Health

Forage

For Robert, silage quality was always a strong point but with good quality, leafy silage, effective fibre in the form of straw is critical for rumen function. “Testing the silage and determining that I required straw to my mix left cattle fuller and I got cattle away faster,” remarked Robert.  With the ability to sample silage on farms using our NIR4 Farm Analyser, we can ensure that the correct ration is fed to maximise performance and DLWG.  In situations where a TMR is offered, ensuring a maximum chop length of two inches (less than muzzle width) will help prevent sorting the feed and maximise dry matter intake.

Concentrates

Fane Valley Feeds Beef Feed Range features rations with high levels of maize, which is the highest energy and starch cereal available but is slowly fermentable in the rumen. It is relatively safe and helps to prevent acidosis. Barley, which is more rapidly fermentable and higher in fibre, helps to balance the qualities of maize. Higher DLWGs are common with higher cereal rations; however, the risk of acidosis also increases. To avoid this, Fane Valley Feeds Beef Rations are balanced with digestible fibre in the form of soya hulls and sugar beet Pulp, which helps improve rumen health allowing cattle to maximise feed utilisation and performance with less risk.

Robert commented: “Looking at the overall diet and ensuring everything is balanced has improved my animal performance drastically.”  Dung consistency is a reliable indicator of rumen function illustrating that cattle are receiving adequate forage intakes and have good rumen health. Robert stated: “The inclusion of Acidbuf and Actisaf live yeast has improved feed digestibility and little or no feed particles are present in the dung”. Approximately 60% of resting animals should be cudding at any one time and rumen fill should be good, indicating that cattle have consumed adequate feed within the last 24 hours.

Management

Robert realises energy intake is key to driving DLWG and ensuring good carcass covers, so palatability, consistency and 24-hour access to feed are key components of maximising feed intake. Finishing cattle can drink up to 50 litres of water per day therefore a good water supply is essential and drinkers should be inspected daily and cleaned if contaminated with straw or faeces.

Fane Valley Feeds have a complete range of compound beef feeds and blends available to meet the requirements of local beef farmers.

To find out more about the complete range of Fane Valley Feeds Beef Rations please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Specialist or Ruminant Nutritionists, Matthew Armstrong on 07714 950585