Beef farmers faced with rapidly diminishing forage stocks and limited access to other feed options are being warned to ensure feed stocks last through the rest of the winter by maximising feed conversion efficiency (FCE).
According to Keenan nutrition specialist Seth Wareing, to counter the rise in feed costs, and still maintain the same margin as last year, FCE has to increase by 30%. “And that’s just what’s needed to stand still. Anyone wanting to improve their margin will have to lift FCE considerably more.”
Trials have shown that a switch to the Keenan Mech-Fiber system from any other mixed ration system will improve FCE by 15%, adding Keenan’s PACE system to this has been shown to improve FCE by a further 14%, offering a total 29% improvement on current FCE, he adds.
Many farms are already nearly half way through their silage stocks and there are at least 90 days of winter left for many of them, says Mr Wareing. “In many parts of the country grass silage is trading at up to £50 a bale, so even where there is silage available it is going to be expensive to buy.”
And the situation is similar when it comes to sourcing straights, adds Mr Wareing. “With cereal prices touching £200/t other feed ingredient prices have risen on the back of this. Additionally, many feeds are simply unavailable, apart from the odd spot load which may be offered.
“Feeds such as draff, brewers’ grains, Trafford Gold and pressed pulp are unavailable unless they were forward bought some months ago.”
On top of that, in some parts of the country silage is trading at anything up to £50/bale, he says. “So, even if there is silage available it will be at a price few will want to pay.”
For many the best option to make silage stocks last will be to increase the straw content in the diet, believes Mr Wareing. “This is particularly relevant for spring calving suckler herds where feeding cows 5kg of straw a day could replace 20kg of silage. That would save a total of 1.8t of silage a cow over the next 90 days.”
Even though straw is trading at £100/t it is still one of the best value feeds available. “Adding straw to the ration will improve ration presentation and ensure cattle are eating an open ration with a fluffy consistency which enables the rumen to extract more of the available nutrients from the feed.”
Crucially, says Mr Wareing, every farmer should speak to their nutritionist and assess what feed stocks they have left now. “Then a plan can be made for the rest of the winter and extra feed supplies sourced if needs be. Waiting until silage stocks have nearly been used up isn’t an option, plans must be put in place now.”