Getting more from your feed
Current happenings and market
So far, 2019 has been one of the toughest years imaginable for all beef farmers. We have witnessed many upsets caused by poor beef prices, increased costs of feed, Brexit and, most recently, the threat of Mercosur. A question I have been asked a lot recently is “What is the future of finishing animals in this country?” It is crucial that farmers know their system, and planning is something that is being encouraged. Know your finishing system, the capabilities of the farm and what has worked well for you in the past. As well as this, purchase animals that fit into your system. We are all aware of the finished specs required by meat processors and achieving the best beef price requires you to hit them all.
The finishing period on any farm should be carefully planned, with a strict strategy in place to ensure consistency of feeding and good herd health to achieve the maximum performance from our animals. The arrival period (the first three–four weeks on-farm) is often a stage that is overlooked by farmers. This is a crucial part of any finishing period; it is vital that all animals adapt to their new environment as quickly as possible. Mixing new cattle, dealing with new surroundings and being offered a new diet are just some of the challenges. Poor management will lead to an extended adaptation period, which ultimately increases costs and delays slaughter dates. To achieve a stress-free adaptation period, it is recommended to have separate housing, a strict vaccination programme and a specific arrival diet.
Nutrition and its importance
For beef farmers, it is vital that we maximise the use of home-grown ingredients in our animals’ diets. From this, you can then formulate diets depending on your system, to achieve optimum performance. Consistency is another key component in animal nutrition and guaranteeing animals are being fed the same diet each day. This ensures we are maintaining a healthy rumen. The rumen is often referred to as the engine in beef production, utilising ingested feed and converting it to beef. If we do not maintain a stable rumen, or if there are inconsistencies in feeding, we run into nutritional disorders. Nutritional disorders in finishing beef animals can result in reduced animal health, lowered production efficiency and even losses. When we mention nutritional disorders, we’re talking about acidosis, bloat and laminitis. Sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) becomes a problem when excess levels of acid are produced in the rumen, due to excessive amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates and a shortage of physical fibre. Ruminant animals rely on microbes within the rumen to convert feed ingredients into sources of energy, protein and fibre. For optimum rumen health, the pH within the rumen must remain relatively constant at a pH of approximately six. This aids in providing a healthy environment for the rumen microbes and optimising rumen performance. Signs of SARA can be easy to spot; diarrhoea, reduced feed intakes and an accompanying drop in animal performance.
You can prevent SARA with:
- Feed consistency.
- Physical fibre inclusion.
- A nutritionally balanced diet.
- Inclusion of a live yeast.
Maximise rumen performance
Understanding animal nutrition is key to developing a balanced diet that will maintain a healthy rumen. Breeding or purchasing animals of high genetic merit creates the potential for high levels of performance. However, it is the level of management — but more importantly, the nutritional management — that allows animals to reach their maximum potential. Farmers are now consulting with on-farm nutritionists, formulating specific nutritional programmes to achieve the best results from their system. An energy-dense diet, utilising homegrown and bought-in ingredients, will help reach the desired market specs required by the processor. Farmers should also be aware of the importance of maximising the quality of homegrown ingredients. Producing high-quality grass silage with a high dry matter digestibility (greater than 70%) will have a huge impact on the overall diet cost. Alternative crops such as maize silage and fodder beet are also excellent sources of energy and can be very cost-effective in finishing diets.
For over 30 years, Alltech has been providing nutritional solutions. The core product of this business is Yea-Sacc, a live yeast culture that is proven to provide optimal rumen health conditions, and in return delivers increased animal performance. Including Yea-Sacc in feed will allow animals to adjust to new diets quicker, whilst maintaining rumen health. Over the last three decades, extensive research has time and time again proven that Yea-Sacc helps to maintain a stable pH while encouraging consistent feed intakes. Providing a stable rumen allows the microbes within the rumen to work more efficiently. Yea-Sacc also promotes the number of fibre-digesting bacteria within the rumen, and therefore allows the animal to extract more energy from the diet. Including Yea-Sacc in the finishing diet offers the opportunity for animals to reach their full potential. By shortening the adaptation period and getting animals onto their finishing diet earlier, we see increased daily liveweight gain and reduced number of days to slaughter.
Figure 1: The effect of Yea-Sacc on daily liveweight gain.
Independent research carried out by Teagasc Grange and Harper Adams shows consistent improvements in daily liveweight gains of 10% (Fallon et al., 2003). The consistency of these results across many different studies displays the reliability of Yea-Sacc and show how it can be used to ensure your animals reach their maximum potential. Furthermore, research carried out by Harper Adams revealed that animals fed Yea-Sacc reached slaughter time 21 days earlier than the control animals.
Contact and Email Details
At Alltech, our team of technical representatives, based throughout Ireland can offer nutritional support and advice on diet preparation. Alltech solutions are proven to benefit beef animals and achieve improved health status. This results in increased and efficient weight gain by getting more from your feed.
Call our nutrition team today to discuss your winter finishing diet: +353 (0)18252245 or email email@example.com.
Marsh, S. P., Kneale, C. M., & Wilde, D. Effect of a yeast culture (Yea-Sacc1026) on the performance of cereal fed beef cattle.