A weak pound may be favouring UK beef markets, but with feed and fuel costs continuing to sore, now is the time to be improving efficiencies on farm, according to Northumberland beef farmer Duff Burrell.
Speaking at the launch of Keenan’s Mech-Fiber STEP programme for Beef last week, Mr Burrell said it was not good enough to think all financial returns come from the market place. “For too long farmers have been controlled by the market ups and downs, but there’s some areas farmers have direct control over and that can have a major impact on the bottom line.”
And one way farmers can double profitability is by improving the conversion of feed to meat, explained Keenan’s international nutrition director, David Beever.
“Mech-fiber STEP – securing total enterprise profitability – has resulted in improvements of 25% in conversion of feed to meat. This optimises liveweight gain, reduces cost for every unit of production and gives the potential for higher throughput through the enterprise.”
The program uses a ration structure produced in Keenan Feeders called Mech-fiber which when in the rumen produces a uniform low-density distribution of feed and specific fibre through the rumen liquor.
“Trials have shown a 40% reduction in time when rumen pH was below 5.4, a big improvement considering a lot of beef cows have sub-clinical acidosis,” said Prof Beever.
One farmer benefiting from the STEP management system is Yorkshire beef producer Mike Douglas. Finishing 3000 cattle a year, he has more than doubled the daily margin for every animal on his enterprise in just three months, said Keenan’s Seth Wareing.
“Changing from a vertical auger mixer to a Keenan Mech-fiber unit with the full STEP management system increased the margin for every animal a day from £0.57 to £1.22 in the first 90 days, knocking a full month off finishing time. This was achieved by optimising the physical presentation of the ration rather than changing the ration components.”
Three STEP packages are available, STEP One, Two and Three.
STEP One is designed for suckler enterprises and by using the Mech-fiber ration can improve cow fertility, produce better calves and create a foundation for optimum weight.
STEP Two is a rearing and finishing system designed for smaller businesses with the ability to have up to 200 beef animals on the unit at any one time. It can also track performance, manage feed efficiently, control feed costs and deliver profit gain without having to weigh cattle.
STEP Three is for large scale beef producers and is designed for use with on farm weighing, electronic identification and recording of animals for precision control of feed efficiency and performance gains.
Cost for STEP packages based on 100 head and on using a Mech-fiber 300 feeder wagon, would be about £5/head a month and for a 400-head unit and based on a Mech-fiber 400 feeder, would be about £2.50/head a month.
One farmer, who believes STEP will be essential to his farm’s profitability, is Bob White, Turnville Heath, Oxfordshire.
“With 750 cattle we are focused on costs of production as we could bleed money easily if we got it wrong because of the number of animals.”
Mr White, who farms with his wife Jane, son Tom and daughter Anna have been using a Keenan mixer wagon for five years and believes STEP Three will help drive greater enterprise profitability in the future.
“For us, STEP provides an opportunity to tie up the loose ends in our production and move to a new level of control, information feedback and, ultimately, efficiency in how we produce beef. We see it as a tool that can help us move from finishing 700 cattle a year to 1200.”