Give em roots and greens but plan…
By Jonathan Riley
BEEF producers seeking to cut feed costs by switching to roots or green vegetables must plan rations carefully to achieve target liveweight gains.
Suffolk-based Signet consultant Geoff Fish says that these vegetables can form a key part of the ration offering scope to cut costs, but all too often are considered a waste and offered to cattle without planning the ration accordingly.
"Cattle must be weighed, so daily liveweight gains needed to achieve the target market date can be calculated," says Mr Fish.
He warns that these gains must be set so that animals finish quickly without going over condition before their optimum marketing weight is reached.
Roots – such as sugar beet, fodder beet, pressed pulp, and parsnips, – are generally high in energy but need a good protein supplement, he says. Dry matters vary considerably, for example, carrots have a low dry matter in comparison with sugar beet.
"The nutrient value of a root type must be known in order to match the level of protein supplement accordingly," says Mr Fish.
Because roots are high in energy, he advises against feeding over 10kg to 12kg/day to dry cows to avoid calving difficulties.
"Conversely green leaf vegetables, such as cabbage and sprouts, are low in energy are not ideal for finishing cattle quickly.
"But they have good protein levels and with calabrese, for example, it may be possible to drop protein supplementation for animals on longer finishing periods where growth rates of about 0.8kg are required," he says.
Roots – high in energy but cattle rations need extra protein, says Phillip Miles (see story below).