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Improve stock performance on forage during extreme weather

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Rumenco is a leading supplier of ruminant feed solutions. Rumenco’s Rumevite product range supplies a balanced combination of nutrient-rich forage supplement blocks that stimulate the rumen and improve forage digestibility.

Hot, dry summers and damp, cool springs have challenged forage production and utilisation in recent years. If not managed correctly, these extreme conditions can leave farmers footing a hefty feed bill or experiencing costly losses in livestock performance.

“The last few years have thrown some less than ideal grass growing and grazing conditions at livestock producers,” says Dr Alison Bond, ruminant nutritionist for Rumenco.

Ewes and lambs feeding

© Rumenco Limited

On one end of the spectrum, spring grass growth has had some slow starts due to oversaturation and cool temperatures – hurting both quality and growth early on. On the other end, record high temperatures and drought have scorched grass paddocks midway through the grazing season – tanking regrowth and leaving producers scrambling for alternatives.  

Increasing forage utilisation with forage supplement blocks

Whether or not Mother Nature is dealing out favourable cards, homegrown forage is the most economical way for farmers to feed their stock.

To stretch this valuable feed resource, Dr Bond recommends providing grazing livestock with a nutrient-rich forage supplement block such as Rumevite.

“Rumevite stimulates the rumen to work harder by fueling and supporting the rumen bug population through a combination of protein and energy and little and often feeding. This results in intake increases and up to a 10 percent improvement in forage digestion for cattle and sheep,” explains Dr Bond.

Blocks are also fortified with minerals, vitamins and trace elements to give stock constant nutrient top-ups. Controlled intakes and continual access also allow shyer stock more accessibility without bullying issues.

6 benefits of feeding Rumevite

  1. Increased utilisation of homegrown forages
  2. Lower cost than alternative systems while giving the same result
  3. Feed availability 24/7 which prevents bullying at troughs and promotes performance
  4. Blocks are weatherproof, convenient, ergonomic and labour saving
  5. Delivers key minerals and vitamins
  6. More sustainable, environmentally friendly feeding system compared with feed buckets

Livestock performance benefits

“While the main target is to stretch forage stocks and cut down on the need for bought-in concentrates, selecting a formulation that is tailored for specific classes of stock and forage challenges will excel livestock performance,” says Dr Bond.

In multiple trials, Rumenco’s Rumevite forage supplements have been proven to have significant impacts on livestock performance.

Cattle in a field

© Rumenco Limited

Cattle

In a study of 156 head of store cattle on five different farms, livestock supplemented with Rumevite Cattle Booster had a 25kg liveweight gain advantage over 105 days compared to the control group. Performance advantages carried through into the finishing period, with supplemented cattle maintaining the 25kg weight increase and therefore finishing 28 days ahead of the control group.

Sheep

Similar results have been seen in finishing lambs in a study at Plumpton College in Sussex. Despite having a 300g disadvantage to the control group at the start of the study, lambs supplemented with Rumevite Quality Lamb had a daily liveweight gain of 189g, which resulted in a 36.7kg liveweight at 45 days to slaughter. The control group only gained 94.3g/day, finishing in 83 days at 36.3kgs.

“Not only did supplemented lambs have greater daily liveweight gains at grass and finish 38 days sooner, but they also achieved greater carcase grades than the control group,” says Dr Bond.

For producers looking to improve ewe fertility, trials have found Rumevite Sheep Super, which contains fish oil, can increase the lambing percentage by up to 22% when fed in the eight week period around tupping.

“The supplement block formulation helps ewes reach optimal body condition ahead of tupping, supporting ovulation – which can lead to more ewes holding service in the first cycle,” says Dr Bond.

Budget intakes

  • Cattle will consume 300-500g/head/day
  • Growing cattle will consume 200-300g/head/day
  • Ewes can be expected to take 100-250g/head/day
  • Lambs will consume 100-150g/head/day.

While feed blocks are weatherproof, they should be supplemented in a container with drainage to avoid wastage. They should also be placed away from any waterways.

Benefits during environmental extremes

Drought

Prolonged dry weather in mid-summer will cause real issues for many cattle and sheep producers across the UK as grazing becomes scarcer at a time when grass growth and subsequent livestock performance should be at its best.

Although it may be tempting to hold off on supplementation, the cost of feeding for an extra 1kg of liveweight gain later in the animal’s life, and subsequently later in the season, may be as much as double as the animal matures. Alternatively, the consequences of selling under-finished animals may reduce income by around £5 and £18 per lamb and steer sold, respectively.

“When pastures become depleted and animals are not supplemented, they will likely suffer weight loss and a reduction in health and performance,” explains Dr Bond.

For maintenance a ewe needs 1kg grass on a DM basis during summer time – if dry weather continues, they will struggle to get this and consequently face a loss of body condition which can harm conception as we head towards tupping time.

Ewes preparing for tupping can’t afford to lose any body condition. Feeding a free-access supplement, such as Rumevite at this time will help support this preparation as well as supply key minerals, vitamins and trace elements. 

Rumevite All Season in particular is a high energy and protein feed and mineral block for cattle and sheep with access to lower quality grazing to support optimal health and performance.

“Supplementing dwindling grazing sooner rather than later will help keep growth and performance on track with younger animals having improved efficiency of growth and so improved return on investment of feed offered,” says Dr Bond. “Reaching markets at closer to peak values adds further value to the finished stock too so delaying acting could end up costing you more than it saves.”

farmer putting out feeding

© Rumenco Limited

Periods of high moisture

During periods of high rainfall and saturated ground conditions, cattle and sheep may essentially be left with nothing more than ‘green water.”

Even if grass looks plentiful, extreme saturation typically results in low quality forage.

“Depending on the time of year, high moisture content can prevent cattle and sheep from consuming enough dry matter to meet intake and nutrient demands during critical production stages,” says Dr Bond.

A common time for this to become an issue is late autumn and early winter as pregnant stock have high nutrient demands for foetal development in late pregnancy.

High moisture content will inhibit pregnant cattle and sheep from consuming enough dry matter to meet intake and nutrient demands during critical foetal development in late pregnancy. But according to Dr Bond, supplementing pastures with poor quality forage or straw will help provide dry matter to fill the rumen without adding condition to the animal.

“Assessing grazed and supplemented forage for quality and quantity will help determine how much additional dry matter is needed,” explains Dr Bond.

For livestock that had adequate body condition at breeding, forage needs to be low in energy to ensure body condition is maintained ahead of lambing and calving. Adding on unnecessary weight during mid to late gestation will predispose livestock to metabolic issues like milk fever and could result in dystocia.

While feeding low quality forage or straw is a recommended way to provide rumen fill, it must be balanced with protein, vitamins and minerals. An effective way to do this is to feed a high protein feed and mineral block or high sugar content bucket to help with intake and utilisation of rough grazing.

Rumevite’s product range consists of eight different formulations that include options of high energy, protein, magnesium and fish oil to help provide tailored nutrition to individual farming systems. Find the best one for your system.

 

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