14 September 2001

Maize is cheaper than grass silage in beef herd diet

REPLACING grass silage with maize in beef diets can reduce production costs by £18 a head, according to University of Reading research.

Speaking at the British Grassland Society conference, held at the university this week, David Beever told delegates that maize offered a cheaper rationing option for beef finishing, compared with grass silage.

"Maize is less variable than grass silage. As maize level in the diet increases, feed intake, liveweight gains and feed conversion ratio improve."

Cattle used on the trial were 56 Simmental x Holstein steers, averaging 424kg liveweight, entering the final phase of finishing. Forage composition of trial diets varied from all grass, differing proportions of grass and maize, to all maize. Each was balanced with concentrate to achieve a diet crude protein content of 14%.

For cattle on the all-maize diet, liveweight gain was 1.26kg compared with 0.92kg for those on the all-grass diet. Feed conversion ratio was also improved at 7.78:1 and 9.12:1, respectively. Cattle on all maize also killed out better at 57%, compared with 55% on all grass.

"Despite rumours about carcasses from maize-fed cattle being inferior, there was no evidence of this. Fat and lean levels were the same for all diets," said Prof Beever.

Although maize costs about £100/ha (£40/acre) more to grow and ensile than grass, it provided a cheaper ration, he explained.

"Cattle on all maize took 116 days to reach slaughter, 42 days less than steers on the all-grass diet. Total variable costs for the finishing period were, therefore, £116 for maize and £134 for grass silage-fed cattle." &#42