Friday, December 15, 2017

Cost-effective nutrition key to beef unit success

July 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock

GaryAllis-Calves

Efficient calf rearing and cost-effective nutrition are the key drivers behind an successful expansion for Lincolnshire beef farmer Gary Allis.

“We used to do some contracting work for a neighbouring dairy farmer and realised he was disposing of his Holstein Friesian bull calves because they were worthless to him,” says Mr Allis, of Furze Hill Farm, Bilsby, near Alford.

“We decided to rear them and finish them for the open market, starting with just 25 calves. It made sense because we needed additional income to support our arable business and we had buildings on-farm that weren’t being used.”

Today, the business finishes 1,300 black and white bulls anually, selling them on a forward contract to Adam Buitelaar. The secret of success, says Mr Allis, is attention to detail and the development of efficient, cost-effective rations.

For the first four weeks, calves are fed three litres of milk, twice a day, before dropping to three litres of milk once a day for a further four weeks. During this time, they have access to fresh clean water and pellets, to encourage rumen development and aid early growth.

Calves are weighed and separated into pens of 30 at 11 weeks. They are weaned off pellets on to a moist grower ration over 12 days to minimise the risk of acidosis. They are then kept on a grower ration of 58% dry matter, 13.1 ME (MJ/kg DM), 31% starch and sugars and 16.5% protein.

High in rumen

This ration lasts until calves are eight months old. “The ration is also high in rumen by-pass protein from the inclusion of SoyPass, to exploit early protein growth potential, with the aim of pushing early lean growth as hard as possible,” says Mr Allis.

“For the last four months, the cattle switch to a finisher ration that contains the same ingredients with the exception of SoyPass. This adjusts the ration to being 51% dry matter, 13.2 ME (MJ/kg DM), 35% starch and sugars, but only 13.9% protein on the dry matter basis.

“This shifts the nutrient balance to more energy and less protein to drive carcase composition rather than growth,” says Mr Allis, who prides himself on his cost-effective rations, that include Proflo, a wheat distillery syrup, as well as other feeds stuffs such as maize meal and rape straw.

“Grower and finisher rations are some of the cheapest farmers will find, costing around £175 t/DM and £135 t/DM respectively. But cheap doesn’t mean we compromise on quality – we ensure that rations are well balanced and palatable to maximise performance.”

The ration was recommended five years ago by Dr Michael Marsden, head of nutrition at Trident Feeds, after Mr Allis noticed that the cattle weren’t eating as much as they should be. Margins have improved since the change in formulation.

Efficiency

“For this reason, we decided to introduce Proflo to help drive intakes, reduce ration sorting and improve rumen efficiency,” says Dr Marsden. The distillery liquid is particularly effective at masking less palatable feed ingredients, which in turn stimulates intakes.

“It acts as a high energy and protein liquid, plus a binding liquid, meaning cattle consume a more balanced ration, reducing the risk of acidosis and improving feed efficiency. It’s been a valuable addition in terms of cattle performance and cost-effective feeding.”

Mr Allis agrees: “We’ve found that achieving a balance between days to target slaughter weight and carcase conformation, allowing more cattle to pass through the system per annum is the key to profitability.”

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