Improving Efficiency In Beef Finishing
2nd October 2017

Pictured: Matthew Armstrong, Ruminant Nutritionist, Fane Valley Feeds, inspecting the finishing diet of Aberdeen Angus cattle offered one of Fane Valley Feeds Beef Rations.

As we head towards Autumn consideration should be given to the management and nutrition of finishing cattle to maximise daily liveweight gains (DLWG) and profitability. Reducing the number of days taken to finish cattle by increasing DLWG will improve profitability. In this article, Matthew Armstrong, Ruminant Nutritionist at Fane Valley Feeds outlines some of the key areas for maximising DLWG during the finishing period.

For most cattle, moving to a finishing diet will involve much higher starch and concentrate feed rates. The rumen bugs require three weeks to adapt to this much more intense feeding regime. Without this transition period, cattle are often seen to reduce feed intake, stall or lose weight due to acidosis; despite the traditional signs of clinical acidosis not always being obvious. This setback increases the time taken for rumen bugs to become accustomed to the new diet, reducing DLWG in the early stages and prolonging days until finishing thus adding unnecessary costs.

Nutrition and Rumen Health
Energy intake is key to driving DLWG and ensuring good carcass covers. Fane Valley Feeds Beef Feed Range features rations with high levels of Maize which is the highest energy and starch cereal available but is slowly fermentable in the rumen, therefore, it is relatively safe and helps to prevent acidosis. Barley which is more rapidly fermentable and higher in fibre, helps to balance the qualities of Maize.
Higher DLWGs are common with higher cereal rations however the risk of acidosis also increases; to avoid this, Fane Valley Feeds Beef Rations are balanced with digestible fibre in the form of Soya Hulls and Sugarbeet Pulp which helps improve rumen health, allowing cattle to maximise feed utilisation and performance with less risk.

Acid Buf and Actisaf live yeast are included as standard in our specialised beef feeds, ensuring improved digestibility and increased feed utilisation while maintaining a stable rumen pH.  

Effective fibre in the form of silage or straw is critical for rumen function.  Silage quality and pH will determine how much cereal can be incorporated into the ration to maximise DLWG without causing acidosis. In situations where a TMR is offered, ensuring a maximum chop length of 2 inches (less than muzzle width) will help prevent sorting the feed and maximise dry matter intake.
Dung consistency is a reliable indicator of rumen function and little or no feed particles should be present, illustrating that cattle are receiving adequate forage intakes and have good rumen health.  Approximately 60% of resting animals should be cudding at any one time and rumen fill should be good, indicating that cattle have consumed adequate feed within the last 24 hours.

Palatability, consistency and 24 hour access to feed are key components of maximising feed intake. Finishing cattle can drink up to 50 litres of water per day therefore a good water supply is necessary and drinkers should be inspected daily and cleaned if contaminated with straw or faeces.
Fane Valley Feeds have a complete range of compound beef feeds and blends available to meet the requirements of local beef farmers.  With the ability to sample silage on farm with our NIR4 Farm Analyser, we can ensure that the correct ration is fed to maximise performance and DLWG.

To find out more about the complete range of Fane Valley Feeds Beef Rations please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Specialist or Ruminant Nutritionists Matthew Armstrong on 07714 950585 or Dr Hazel Gilmore on 07714950584.