22 August 1997

Treatment costs to sway cereals feed decision?

By Emma Penny

CONSIDER the cost of treating cereals before buying for winter rations, and look at other options which may be more cost-effective.

That is the message from independent nutritionist Mike Thame. "Look at costs carefully – there are other feeds on the market which are also good value.

"Its not just the market price that should influence buying decisions. Cereals must be processed before feeding to cattle – a factor often forgotten. Milling can add £8/t, while caustic treatment will add nearer £15/t to the buying-in price," he warns.

Sugar beet pulp, citrus pulp pellets, wheat, barley and triticale are all comparable options, and competitively priced, says Mole Valley Farmers nutritionist Luppo Diepenbroek.

"They are all 12.5-13 ME, with about 11% protein. But again, producers should consider costs, and hassle – it may be easier to sell grain at £75/t and buy in sugar beet pulp."

According to SAC nutritionist Mitch Lewis, sheep chew and ruminate more than cattle, and so can be fed whole cereals. However, feeding whole cereals to cattle can result in losses of up to 50% as they pass, undigested, straight through the animal.

"But remember that only mild processing is required; you only want to crack the seed, or if it is moist, roll it to about two-thirds of its original size.

"Too many producers overdo processing. This makes starch readily available, increasing fermentation in the rumen. This could cause sub-clinical acidosis, where therere no outward signs but digestive efficiency and intakes are reduced," says Dr Lewis.

For most dairy cattle, maximum cereal inclusion rate should be 4kg a head a day, says Dr Thame. "Higher rates will make the ration difficult to balance."

Finishing beef animals can be fed higher rates, but no more than 2kg cereals at each feed, warns Mr Diepenbroek. "These cattle could be fed 8-10kg a head a day, but on an ad-lib basis."

Maximum cereal inclusion rate in sheep rations should be 1.5kg a head/day. This should be split, with up to 400g being fed at a time, he says.

But protein supplementation must be considered carefully, stresses Dr Lewis. "This must be adequate for rumen bacteria to work effectively. Where theres a slight shortage, intake and hence performance will fall. But in the extreme, the rumen will stop working altogether.

"The level of supplementation depends on forage and whether it has a high enough protein content. For beef cattle, where the silage protein is over 14% there may be no need to supplement, but where hay and straw are the basis of rations, extra protein is vital."

For dairy cows, supplementation depends the level of protein in silage and other by-products fed, he says. "But there should be at least 18% protein in the concentrate part of the ration."

According to Mr Diepenbroek, rations for lactating ewes must contain 18-20% protein. "Otherwise ewes will just become fat and produce little milk."

He also warns that minerals should be fed where cereals form a large part of the ration.

"Cereals are low in calcium, and a 15% calcium supplement should be fed at 75-100g a day. Selenium should be considered, particularly with caustic treated cereals.

"Active yeast, fed at 25-50g/day, may also help reduce acidosis risk," he says.

BUYING CEREALS

&#8226 Must process for cattle.

&#8226 Supplement with protein.

&#8226 Minerals important.