They say so much can happen in a year, who would have thought… and no, I am not talking about Covid-19 but rather the beef price!

Last April, 6-12month steers were averaging £884.46 through the markets compared to this April (2021), stores were averaging an extra £1067.46p/h which equates to around an extra £183 (AHDB).
With beef prices soaring to these record highs after several poor years you would be forgiven for being a little less focused on the fine margins on the farms that produce these cattle. However, it could not be further from the truth, perhaps now more than at anytime these fine margins can lead to huge benefits to a farms income especially as global feed prices have soared throughout the last 12 months also.
It is imperative to ensure that your stock is maximising their genetic growth potential, how do we ensure this is happening?

Firstly the forage being fed on farm should be analysed to find out exactly what you have and more importantly what is missing in your animals diet.
Rations need to be balanced to achieve optimum rumen balance which in turn will maximise performance. When purchasing bought in concentrates to complement forage, a stock person should know exactly what he is being offered. What really does that nut or blend contain?

A study was undertaken that found that less than 8% of beef farmers actually study the ration being sold to them. Too often we can be taken in by buzz words or additives. Are these so called ‘additives’ really going to push your stock to their full potential if the raw material base is off such poor quality? In a concentrate, the basic materials can make up of more than 95% of the feed, with the rest being minerals, vitamins and additives. So surely focusing on getting this larger proportion right should be more important and will have a bigger impact on the animal than looking at the small inclusion of ‘extras’?

For example, a ration with the inclusion of oatfeed (very low feed value) and urea (Contains no DUP or energy) will not perform as well as a diet with the inclusion of maize and soya. With current feed prices we are finding, more of these lesser quality, cheaper materials are being included in large quantities in some formulations. An additive does not make up for the short fall in the quality of the product – a ration containing top quality raw materials or honest nutrition in a formulation will always out perform a ration containing less desirable raw materials.

Far too often on farm it comes down to price per tonne. Demonstrated in the table below, a formulation that is £20 cheaper can lose huge amounts of money in lost performance. By feeding a high energy compound with top raw materials, we can increase daily live weight gains (DLWG) by more than 0.4 kg or 40% increase in DLWG (Table 1). Over a period of 180 days this can be equivalent to an extra 72kg of live weight. If we take the current market, an extra 72 kg can result in an additional £158.40 per calve. From the extra value at market and subtract the extra cost of feeding the higher specification (£36.00 over 180 days), it would mean almost £122.40 in profit. Multiplying this by 100 calves sold off the unit, it can result in outstanding profits of almost £12,240. Calves will also be away quicker so additional savings on other inputs can be made.

We only sell these calves once so we need to ensure we are getting the most in monetary terms out of them. With beef prices per kilo at an all time high, we should be aiming for extra live weight gain, as at the end of the day weight is paying.

Steven Turnbull

Steven Turnbull Sales and Marketing Manager

Table 1. Financial impact of increased ME in a ration to increase daily live weight gains.

Quality of Raw Materials



Cost of Production

Cost of Product (pp/kg)

Extra Cost (compared to control)

Extra Cost Over 180 days fed

Extra LWG over 180 days fed

Value of extra gain per calf @ £2.20 per kg

Overall profit Gain

Low 16 1.00 £245 £0.245 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (control) 0 (Control)
Average 16 1.10 £250 £0.250 0.05p £9.00 18kg £39.60 £30.60
High 16 1.40 £265 £0.265 0.20p £36.00 72kg £158.40 £122.40