Beef Meals – Measured Performance

March 30, 2018

With almost every beef farmer now testing silage annually, there has never been a greater time to discuss the benefit of beef meals.

This is a marketplace that we, at Davidsons Feeds, are finding is expanding year on year. This is due to the accuracies of predicted Daily Liveweight Gains and speed of finishing on many units across the country.

In recent trial work carried out by SRUC on the performance of finishing livestock when fed on forage-based TMR and concentrate-based diets, the results indicated no difference on feed efficiency between the two alternate diets.

Performance is a topic which we discuss daily with farmers and many are being converted to feeding meals through a TMR over generic compound and blended feeds, proving that it’s not just for the Dairies! With forages being the most variable source of feed on every farm it makes sense to be purchasing a concentrate that is specific to the forage in order to see improved efficiency.

The benefits don’t stop with increased efficiency either. Many farms cut silages later this year which has had an adverse effect on quality. We have found through on-farm NIR that many are lower in Protein and ME, with lower d-values and a wide range of fermentation characteristics. Year on year growing cattle tend to be fed a similar ration in terms of concentrate and silage quantities. With this years’ poorer silages, most livestock would not perform as well as expected when fed that same ration. Meals can, however be adjusted as energy, protein, mineral content and starch among other nutrients can be altered to compensate for the poorer silages and lighter cattle seen at housing this year. Farmers are becoming increasingly impressed with the ease of feeding meals through a TMR to young stock, with many feeding once per day. Cattle are more content as there is no competition to get to the top-dressed feed first. This leads to more even growth rates among groups and less variation in size. Feeding once per day enables the farmer to get on with other jobs that would normally have to fall between morning and night feeds. It also allows for silage to be rationed out accordingly. With many farmers being low, or short on silage stocks this year, a total mixed ration indicates exactly how much silage young stock will be using, a figure that is usually un-accounted for or guessed at.

The same applies for finishing cattle as well. Ad-lib systems costs can be reduced with a targeted balanced ration containing forage and meal. This not only gives the advantage of having more forage present for rumen stability, therefore reducing acidosis incidences, but also ensures that stock are eating a ration that is balanced for vitamins and minerals.

Moving forwards, it is the vitamin and mineral inclusion that will make meals the more cost-effective ration to be feeding to livestock. With the increased costs of vitamins and minerals, many producers that are buying in bagged minerals and self-adding are now switching to having them incorporated in the meal at their desired feed rate. It is this flexibility that is setting meals apart from generic nuts, rolls and blends as producers are aiming to be getting heifers to target bulling weights earlier and finishing units aiming to be getting cattle away earlier.

Author: Fraser MacNicol

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