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Cost Implications of Imbalanced Finishing Rations

Cost Implications of Imbalanced Finishing Rations
By Bethany May 3 months ago

With high numbers of dairy x beef calves entering the beef chain (and the current beef price not setting the world alight), it is important to consider potential finishing rations and their cost implications.

When it comes to finishing beef rations, the true costs per kg LWG should be understood, in order to be able to maximise income over all costs, and profitability.

There is always the pressure to reduce bought-in feeds, which are typically the biggest input in a finishing system, with the aim to reduce costs. Many also still feed high levels of relatively low digestibility feeds such as grass silages or wholecrop, which bulk out a diet but don’t convert as efficiently into liveweight gain. Over-relying on feeds such as potatoes or by-products high in oil is easy to do when they carry high ME value at low fresh weight cost. However they can cause digestive upsets if the total oil is too high and not balanced with sufficient digestible fibre. It is always tempting to include high levels of these type products; however care needs to be taken to look at the source of energy in the feed so as not to overload on oil or sugar as an energy source and impact DMI and feed conversion efficiency (FCE).

When evaluating which feeds to include for energy, always work out £/MJ ME on a DM basis, but remember the source of this energy is just as important (starch, sugar, oil or fibre) in getting the overall ration balance right and true value for money. A poorly-balanced diet will impact feed conversion efficiency, and the true cost of feeding ‘cheaper’ options actually results in lower income. When you take the increased finishing time and additional labour and housing costs into account, it makes this strategy much less profitable.

It is important to have sufficient fibre and rumen degradable protein in the diets, as a lack of digestible fibre will mean high starch feeds are more likely to cause acidosis and associated reduced FCE. Typically, the aim is at least 15% forage fibre such as straw or silage, and ensure the free oil is < 4% so not to inhibit essential fibre digesting bacteria and cause reduced rumen function. However, due to the rumen health benefits of Maxammon grain, trial work has shown the forage DM element can be as low as 8%, rather than the typical 15%, without impacting rumen health. This also allows more space in the ration for energy dense feed, driving FCE off the same total DMI, and therefore reducing the cost/kg LWG and returning greater finishing period profitability.

Protein in a finishing diet is also an important aspect. A limited supply of rumen degradable protein (RDP) will limit frame growth and rumen health, even in finishing cattle. Feed the right type of protein and correctly balance with starch at ~3:1, for example Maxammon treated wheat, which is a rumen friendly high starch and protein feed, adding 4.3% RDP and ~£30/T feed value. Trial work shows the treatment also makes the fibre more digestible, increasing the NDF digestibility, as well as having a pH of 8.8 which helps maintain rumen health. This drives feed conversion efficiency, and trial work indicates a higher ME value than most other concentrates due to this.

An underperforming finishing ration, too high in forage fill or oily feeds for example, will not capitalise on genetic potential of the animals and can be costly, due to low FCR

and extended finishing times. Just a 10% reduction in DMI, can mean ~0.35kg/d less LWG, extending finishing time by 25 days. This could equate to £47/head off the margin over feed by the end of finishing. It is important to get the balance right with finishing rations, as this is the basis to maximising profitability.

For more details on finishing rations and Maxammon Grain, please contact a member of our Dairy Technical Team who can advise you on the best solutions for your needs.

20 May 2019 13:59:34
Bethany May

Dairy Specialist

m: 07771 740857