Feed cost control critical to beef success

As livestock producers face cheaper cereal prices compared to last year, the challenge isn’t as big this winter to forward buy co-products.

But, independent consultant David Hendy says it is still critical producers maximise cereals grown on farm and analyse forage.

“We’re still in a situation of wait and see when it comes to buying co-products, as there hasn’t been a big enough drop in price of products such as Trafford Gold, bread and stock feed potatoes to warrant buying them on forward contracts,” he explains.

“Soya and rape meal are also reasonably priced, so some producers are buying those on forward contracts as insurance, but the price still needs to fall a little.

“Some co-products have moved off the favourable list, such as liquid feeds due to storage options and feeding difficulty, but some remain a viable option such as bread, but at £10-12/t it still needs to fall a bit more. There certainly isn’t the panic that was surrounding winter feed options this time last year,” adds Mr Hendy.

beef feeding

One piece of advice he is giving his clients is to consider where possible, storing cereals straight from the combine, however, storage capacity is the biggest factor here. “The last two seasons have confirmed the fact livestock producers need to operate flexible systems, to cope with feed changes as and when market process force them to do so, so the biggest issue here is forage analysis to know exactly what products you require,” he adds.

And coupled with forage analysis, Mr Hendy stresses the need for mineral analysis. “The cost of minerals will never go down, so producers need to know they are feeding the right mineral depending on farm status and the right amount to each animal to justify the cost.”

EBLEX options

To help with ration planning this winter the Dairy Event and Livestock Show 2008 will see the launch of a beef rationing clinic on the EBLEX stand. Run by independent ruminant nutritionist Lizz Clarke, farmers will be able to sit down and discuss a ration for one set of animals on their farm, based on information they supply on the quality and quantity of forage and availability of feeds plus much more.

Ms Clarke hopes people will get a better understanding of what they are feeding animals and can apply this back on farm. “The clinic will allow farmers to get a free ration and if on forage based systems producers must bring in an analysis so we know what the silage represents allowing a more balanced accurate diet to be drawn-up.

“It is important farmers actually understand what feeds do and how they work. For example energy puts on condition and fat rather than growth,” she says.

“Too often producers feed an excess of one nutrient and not enough of another and so essentially money is wasted. But by having an accurate ration made up and sticking to it, producers can seek out the most appropriate feed for the cheapest price.

“To get the most out of the one to one session farmers will need to spare about 20-30 minutes so time can be taken to go through to relative values, working out the type of feeds that will work best on individual farms.

“Every farm requires an individual ration as different finishing systems and breed variations all affect what needs to be fed. This is great opportunity for farmers to take advantage of this free service and to start thinking what and how to feed finishing cattle this winter, bearing in mind costs and forage quality.”

There is no need for booking farmers can just turn up at the EBLEX stand during the event.