5 June 1998

Ration mix adds £s to profit

Beef cattle on one Staffs

unit are growing and

finishing well on a ration

which includes by-product

feeds to lower costs.

Jessica Buss reports

FEEDING beef cattle a mixed ration containing brewers grains and potatoes costs one farming partnership just 42p/kg liveweight gain.

Brian and Roger Deane finish about 750 cattle a year, 90% of which are cross-bred heifers, on the 225ha (550-acre) farm which grows 200ha (500 acres) of cereals, alongside the partnerships animal feed business, SC Feeds, Stone, Staffs.

Calves are bought in, reared on milk powder and fed ad-lib corn until they are five months old. They then receive a complete diet until finishing at 15 months, weighing about 440kg and grading mostly as Us and Rs at 2-4L fat cover. All stock over five months old are loose-housed in groups of 35.

"We were finding it more difficult to make ad-lib cereal beef pay, so had to look at other feeding systems," explains Roger Deane.

"Because we now complete diet feed, we can balance a ration to grow cattle cheaply, to try to make a profit out of a sale price of 85p-90p/kg," he says.

The complete diet includes brewers grains, forage balancer concentrate, potatoes, molasses, barley straw, clamped grass silage and baled silage. The forage balancer is a mix of protein feeds, such as soya and linseed, and cereals to provide starch. It is fed to ensure animals finish as well as grow, says Mr Deane.

He admits the forage balancer seems expensive in comparison with other feeds, but believes it is vital to ensure the correct balance of starch and protein is fed.

A 250kg heifer should eat 6kg of dry matter a day of the 12 ME and 15% crude protein complete diet to produce 1.25kg liveweight gain. The ration costs 52p a head a day so a 1kg of liveweight gain costs 42p, explains Mr Deane.

He has complete diet fed for 18 months, and balances his rations using a computer. As different by-product ingredients become available they are tried in small amounts to assess their potential.

"We check animal growth rates by picking one or more pens of 35 animals to monitor over six weeks." It is essential to ensure the savings on the computer are converted in the pens, he adds.

"The key to good rationing is accurate prediction of kg of DM intake and the energy value of that DM, but a cheap ration does not always work because intakes can vary. The diet must be palatable, produce 1 to 1.25kg a day of liveweight gain, and give the right fat cover."

Feed intake of each pen of animals is monitored using the mixer wagon which delivers a pre-set amount for each pen, every day. When a pen has cleared up the previous days feed another 30kg is added.

Each feeds energy cost is calculated (see table) and compared with barley and wheat. Brewers grains is a good buy, with prices from £13/t, as each MJ of energy costs about 0.49p. This compares well with clamped silage at 0.57p/MJ and bagged silage at 0.71p/MJ.

This year, Mr Dean will only cut 20ha (50 acres) for silage because he has clamped 160t of brewers grains – enough for seven to eight months feeding – which he feels is a cheaper option than renting land to make more silage. &#42

Accurate rationing and measuring dry matter intakes is vital to ensure that mixed diets which include by-products deliver the right results.

Feed costs


p/MJ of ME

Barley 0.82

Wheat 0.75

Brewers grains 0.41

Fodder beet 0.82

Forage balancer 0.99

Molasses 1.01

Ryegrass silage 0.57

Bagged silage 0.71

*Prepared by R Dean.

Ration for 250kg animal

eating 6kg DM a day


kg fresh weight

Brewers grains 1.55

Forage balancer 3.41

Molasses 0.65

Barley straw 0.43

Silage 2.87

Potatoes 2.87

Bagged silage 4.00