16 August 2002

Its Irish Ayes for cereal-based diet in heifer finishing

By Jessica Buss

FINISHING beef heifers on cereal-based diets this winter will be more economic than on more traditional forage-based rations, according to research in Ireland.

The increase in heifer beef margins could be as high as £55 an animal, when comparing cereals with forage and concentrate fed twice a day, says Keenans Irish beef specialist Gerry Giggins.

Comparison

Research headed by Maurice Boland at University College Dublin, last year, compared 60 Continental cross heifers finished on three diets: A traditional mix of 40% forage and 60% grain with grain fed twice a day, the same ingredients fed as a total mixed ration (TMR), and a mixed ration of concentrates, with straw as the only forage (see box).

Heifers going into the 110-day study were 13 months old and mostly from one farm to minimise genetic variation. Groups all averaged 377kg a head at the trials start.

The TMR diet proved beneficial, with heifers eating 0.3kg more of the diet than the traditionally fed group. Despite a good liveweight gain in the traditional group of 1.13kg a day, TMR fed animals gained more at 1.3kg a day, so were 17kg heavier at slaughter.

Mr Giggins believes introducing the diet to animals as soon as they were housed helped increase growth rates for TMR-fed animals. A gradual introduction of cereals over 10 days was necessary with traditional twice daily concentrate feeding.

But grain fed cattle grew even faster at 1.41kg a day and were heaviest at slaughter, weighing 529kg. They ate more, but produced the highest margin of the three groups with a better feed conversion efficiency. These were introduced to the ration over 17 days.

Using this years grain price, increases the margin for grain fed heifers to £64 each, compared with £56 for TMR feeding and £9 for traditionally fed stock.

"As grain price drops, margins on the grain fed animals increase. Traditional finishing also depends highly on forage quality. This year silage quality is poor and animals will not grow well on it," says Mr Giggins.

Grain feeding also offers labour savings. In the study, the grain diet was only fed every three days.

Carcass grading results showed TMR and grain fed animals suited the market better than traditionally fed ones. &#42

Results of three feeding systems for beef:

Results table Feed intake (kg a day) Daily gain (kg) Liveweight at slaughter (kg) Feed conversion (kg feed/kg gain) Margin at 2002 costs (£ a head)*

Traditional 9.5 1.13 502 8.8 9.27

Mixed ration 9.8 1.3 520 7.39 56.20

Grain fed 10.8 1.41 529 8.06 64.20

*Margins include slaughter premium.

DIETS

Traditional 22.6% of diet dry matter as grass silage, 14.2% maize silage, 3.3% straw, 59.4% concentrate (rolled barley and wheat, citrus pulp, soya, molasses, minerals).

Mixed ration As above, but fed mixed.

Grain fed Straw, plus concentrate mix of 42% rolled barley, 17% rolled wheat, 17% citrus pulp, 14% distillers grains, 3% soya, 6% minerals, 1% minerals.

Results of three feeding systems for beef

Feed intake Daily Lwt at Feed Margin at

(kg a day) gain slaughter conversion 2002 costs

(kg) (kg) (kg feed/kg gain) (£ a head)*

Traditional 9.5 1.13 502 8.8 9.27

Mixed ration 9.8 1.3 520 7.39 56.20

Grain fed 10.8 1.41 529 8.06 64.20

*Margins include slaughter premium.

DIET TYPES

&#8226 Traditional 22.6% of diet dry matter as grass silage, 14.2% maize silage, 3.3% straw, 59.4% concentrate (rolled barley and wheat, citrus pulp, soya, molasses, minerals).

&#8226 Mixed ration As above, but fed mixed.

&#8226 Grain fed Straw, plus concentrate mix of 42% rolled barley, 17% rolled wheat, 17% citrus pulp, 14% distillers grains, 3% soya, 6% molasses, 1% minerals.