Use of by-products gives a cost-effective and simple winter feeding ration for finishing cattle on one Herts unit. Emma Penny reports
RELIANCE on malt residual nuts and sugar beet pulp nuts means easy mixing, a simple feeding system and good results for beef producers John and Paul Cherry.
The partners, who farm 870ha (2150 acres) at Weston Park Farms, Hitchin, Herts, run 170 spring and autumn calving suckler cows, finishing all progeny except those selected as herd replacements.
About 100 calves from the spring calving herd are weaned and then finished over winter. Male calves are left entire and finished at about 12 months at a liveweight of 550-600kg, while male calves from the autumn herd are castrated and finished at about 18 months, weighing around 550kg lw. Heifers not selected as replacements are also finished.
The suckler herd was established 13 years ago, and initially winter rations for finishing cattle were based on rolled barley. This system was, however, found to be too labour-intensive as cattle numbers increased, as well as being dusty and expensive, explains Paul Cherry.
"We have been feeding malt residual nuts and sugar beet pulp nuts for about 10 years now. They have several benefits – requiring no on-farm processing other than mixing, they are also more palatable and less dusty."
Living in close proximity to maltings and sugar beet factories means both feedstuffs are readily sourced. In the past, the brothers have sourced small loads of nuts from a local feed merchant, but they now receive 25t bulk loads which are stored and mixed on-farm.
Nuts are mixed simply by using the loader bucket – bucket-loads are dropped into a trailer in the proportion required, and mix surprisingly well, they say.
Cost of the latest delivery was £65/t for the malt residual nuts and £88/t for the sugar beet nuts. Like most feedstuffs, both are cheaper this year, with a 50:50 malt: sugar beet pulp nut mix costing about £77/t, compared with £107/t last year.
"Another benefit of malt and sugar beet nuts is that the ration has a better protein supply than rolled barley – and its easy to adjust the proportion of ration components according to requirements," he says.
Malt nuts provide 22% protein and an ME of 11.5 MJ/kg DM, while the sugar beet analysis shows a protein content of 11%, and an ME of 12.9MJ/kg DM.
Bulls are fed an ad-lib mix of the two nuts, costing an average of 53p/day, plus straw and minerals. Initially, the proportion of malt:beet nuts is 60:40, with the emphasis on protein to enable bulls to grow a good frame.
As the bulls approach finishing, the mix is gradually changed to a 40:60 malt:beet mix, the added energy helping to put a finish on the animals, says herdsman Chris Plumb.
Average lw gain for the bulls, who are weaned and housed at just under 300kg, is 1.6kg/day.
Steers achieve a liveweight gain of 1-1.2kg/head/day on 3kg of the mix, while heifers receive a maximum of 2kg mix/head/day to achieve a liveweight gain of 0.75kg/head/day, and minimise the risk of them becoming over-fat.
Steers and heifers
Usually, both steers and heifers receive grass silage. But this year, a greater than usual acreage of maize, means maize silage will be offered. This is usually just fed to autumn calvers, but its higher nutrient content may allow heifers to finish on maize silage alone, says John Cherry.
Despite a large arable acreage and low grain prices, the brothers have no plans to reintroduce cereals into the ration. The current mill-and-mix system would be unable to cope with the volume required; buying a new system is uneconomic and bringing in a contractor is expensive, says Paul Cherry.
"The difference in buying in nuts and feeding cereals is about £15/t. However, cereals dont have the energy or protein of the nut mix, they have to be processed and are also less palatable. And theres little need to change when we are happy with the system we have got."
• Malt residual nuts; 22% Protein, 11.5 ME.
• Sugar beet pulp nuts: 10% protein, 12.9 ME.
Malt residual and sugar beet pulp nuts (inset) provide a cost-effective, simple winter ration for finishing cattle, say Chris Plumb (left), John (middle) and Paul Cherry.