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Increasing Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle

Why is increasing feed efficiency in beef cattle important?

Feed costs often represent 60–70% or more of total production costs for beef producers. Purchasing calves and buying the feed required to finish them are the two most significant variable costs for producers working in the feedlot sector. Utilizing less feed to finish a calf can greatly improve beef production profitability and may also reduce environmental impact.

Signs and causes of poor feed efficiency in beef cattle

The signs of poor feed efficiency are obvious: lower performance and higher feed costs. But properly identifying the causes of poor feed efficiency — or ways to increase feed efficiency — is more varied and can come from multiple sources.

Feed efficiency in beef cattle can be negatively impacted by:

  • Stress, including heat or cold stress
  • Inadequate ration balance
  • Low diet digestibility
  • Inconsistent feeding practices, such as feeding at different times each day
  • Improper bunk management (feeding too much or too little)

4 ways to improve feed efficiency in beef cattle

  1. Maximize genetic potential. Select the best genetics based on your region of production and aim to produce cattle that are genetically feed efficient.
  2. Minimize stress whenever possible. Stress will not only cause health challenges, but also cripple feed efficiency, particularly after transportation or during periods of extreme cold or heat. Practice low stress handling techniques and pay extra attention to providing a healthy environment during any potentially stressful periods.
  3. Implement a comprehensive veterinary plan of care. Working with a trusted veterinary professional to establish a complete plan for vaccinations, treatments and other health tools can dramatically improve overall health and feed efficiency.
  4. Maximize nutrition and overall feeding practices. Provide a balanced ration that includes feed additives such as Amaize®, Yea-Sacc®, Epnix®, which have been validated by peer-reviewed research to enhance performance and feed efficiency. When combined with a structured feeding plan (feeding at a consistent time of day, and providing similar feed quality and quantities), cattle will perform better and maximize efficiency.