14 January 2000

Chopped roots add quality to rations

CHOPPING roots helps cattle to make more of them and prevent choking, says Signet consultant Geoff Fish.

"Cattle digest chopped roots better and more quickly, but if you only have a few head of cattle it is not worth investing in a root conditioner. But for a big operation it is."

As a finishing ration, vegetables are a good feed because they are reasonably high in energy but require a protein supplement. "Cattle with good growth rates, such as finishing beasts, probably need a dry protein supplement, such as malt nuts or maize gluten to go with them.

"Malt nuts are a good supplement when feeding whole veg, as they do not get lost in the mix, unlike rapeseed meal." But rapeseed meal may be the cheapest protein, he adds.

Mr Fish says that about half of any ration can be replaced by veg in finishing stock above 250kg. "Younger stock struggle to eat the volume necessary to meet requirements of a 14-15% protein diet." Bigger cattle can eat the volume of roots needed to meet their dietary needs, but careful budgets must be made when considering the cost effectiveness of veg waste compared with barley finishing, he warns.

"There is a lot of handling involved with roots, while additional bedding is needed because of the diets water content, and you may need extra labour."

Potatoes, parsnips, fodder beet and sugar beet are Mr Fishs favourites for cattle feeding. Carrots are too wet for cattle growing at 1kg a day, as there is not enough dry matter in them, he says.

Compared with barley at £75/t, Mr Fish says the energy value of these vegetables means parsnips are worth £14/t, fodder beet £15/t, potatoes £17-£18/t and sugar beet £21/t.

When these vegetables become more expensive, and reach these values or more, then producers should consider whether it is worth feeding them, allowing for extra labour and handling, says Mr Fish.