2 January 1998

Fast food for fast growth

Feeding by-products to beef

bulls is enabling one

Bedfordshire beef producer

to achieve high growth rates

at low cost.

Jonathan Riley reports

GROWTH rates of 1.5kg a day are being achieved from feed costs of 53p a head at David Browns arable and beef unit Woodside Farm, Woodside, Beds.

Continental bull calves are bought in at eight-week intervals when a week-old and bucket fed before moving onto a by-product and silage-based ration.

"By-products make sense for us as arable producers because we have the machinery to handle and store large quantities and can, therefore, buy them very cheaply," explains Mr Brown.

Potatoes play a major role in the ration.

"Whole potatoes and maize gluten are clamped with the first-cut of grass silage to boost its energy and protein content. Fields are then shut up for hay-making which is sold for pet bedding and the remainder of the ration is made up with by-products," he says.

Potatoes form a large part of the by-products fed at Woodside Farm because they can be bought and delivered for £14/t. And at 16.4 ME waste chips, coated in cooking oil, contribute a high proportion of the diets energy content.

"Recommendations for inclusion rates for chips are as high as 40% of the ration. But we have chosen a 10% inclusion rate because we are worried growth rates – which must be pushed continuously with bulls to market them as young as possible – could suffer if a high fat level disrupts rumen function.

"Instead we use washed and peeled potato pieces to increase the energy content," says Mr Brown.

With the high potato content the diet could be deficient in protein.

"We have the capability to soda treat our own grain to boost protein, but even with grain prices at £80/t we can buy in distillers grain and have it transported from Scotland more cheaply," he says.

This feed – with a protein content of 32% – provides the necessary protein.

The by-products are then mixed using a mixer wagon and clamped. When required 2t of silage is mixed 50:50 with the by-product mix each day to achieve a 14% protein, 13 ME feed costing 53p/head a day, he says.

Mr Browns Signet consultant Geoff Fish warns producers feeding by-products to calculate the protein and energy content of each feed on a freshweight basis.

"This is because energy and protein levels will be lower in the freshweight product than in the dry matter expressed on product literature.

"For example, carrots are 87% water, but often the energy content is expressed as a percentage of dry matter, making them look an attractive, high energy proposition on paper.

"But, fed fresh, it is impossible for cattle to consume enough dry matter to meet their energy requirements," says Mr Fish.

He also warns that rations based on brewers draff could need balancing with specific mineral formulations.

"Potassium, calcium and sodium are often limited in distillers waste, which means an ordinary general-purpose mineral could leave cattle with a deficiency and growth rates will suffer," says Mr Fish.

To ensure that diets are generating target growth rates he recommends that producers weigh cattle frequently, particularly when new ingredients are being used.

By-products enable David Browns cattle to achieve growth rates of 1.5kg/day off feed costing just 53p/head/day.

Distillers grains, potato pieces and chip waste are clamped before mixing with silage and maize gluten to provide a 14% protein ration which supplies 13ME of energy.

FEEDING BY-PRODUCTS

&#8226 Calculate ration on freshweight figures.

&#8226 Use suitable mineral balancer.

&#8226 Weigh cattle frequently.