Bristol bridge

March 2022

Coming from a dairy farming background, I didn’t have a vast amount of knowledge about beef. Over the past few weeks I have been able to grasp an understanding around tailoring diets to the growing and finishing stages of beef cattle. I have also been keeping up-to-date with the current market trends such as raw material and oil prices which are all impacting margins.

Ruminant Academy beef training

This month I have learnt a lot about beef nutrition and the market. At the start of March, Chris Elliott Senior Technical Manager led a Ruminant Academy session where we learnt all about the key macro-nutrients to include within a beef diet.

During the training session I was interested to learn about Levucell SC which is a rumen specific live yeast. One benefit of the live yeast is that it helps to reduce the risk of acidosis through limitating lactate producing bacteria when carbohydrate levels are high. This decreases the chances of the lactate threshold being reached as the pH won’t drop too drastically and denature all the useful bacteria which hydrolyse the carbohydrate. In addition it has been proven that Levuvell SC improves Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG) and reduces the feed conversion ratio with visible effects. By optimising fibre digestibility and rumen health, Levucell has been proven to increase DLWG’s by 12% which reduces finishing age and improves carcass quality.

Levucell live yeast is used in a range of ForFarmers' beef and sheep compound feeds such as Super Beef Grader, PrimeMix 34 and Ewbol Express Lamb Finisher.

A day of dual calling with Dr. Bethan Till

At the end of March I was fortunate to be able to join Ruminant Specialist, Dr. Bethan Till on a day dual calling in Wales.  We visited a large beef unit and the cattle there were achieving average DLWG’s of 2.3kg and some were reaching a peak of 2.7kg per day. The farm housed over 2,000 beef cattle of various breeds on a finishing unit alongside 300 growing suckler cows and 1,000 sheep. The farmer aims to finish cattle before the age 16 months and has a target of 12 months. The finished cattle are then sold directly to ABP and Dunbia. In terms of feed, the farmer purchases raw materials and mixes his own blends which allows self-sufficiency.

Afbeelding: Josie Bethan Beef Visit - 720

Cattle prices continue to rise

In the week ending 26th March, the average price for deadweight GB prime cattle increased to 419.8p/kg, up 3.4p from the previous week. Cattle prices are currently at their highest since 2014 amongst continuing rises in input costs.

Each category's average weekly price increased, with young bulls experiencing the highest jump up 6.1p to 404.3p/kg.

Before the Russian and Ukrainian conflict, inputs were expensive and since then costs have skyrocketed.

Credit: AHDB

Spring staggers and turnout

As spring is well and truly on the way most farmers are keen to turn their cattle out. At turnout grass staggers, also known as grass tetany or hypomagnesaemia, is a serious concern for suckler and dairy cows. Grass staggers is a condition caused by a lack of magnesium in the diet. Magnesium is an important macronutrient in a diet as it is required for bone formation and maintenance, nervous system function and rumen fibre digestion.

To help minimise the side effects of grass staggers, long fibre should always be available in the form of hay or silage this will help aid the transition of wet spring grass through the rumen. Maintaining dietary energy levels particularly starch and sugar will help prevent excess rumen ammonia. Futhermore, dry matter intake, an adequate supply of minerals, trace elements, and vitamins, and having a suitable supplementary sodium (salt) source available to re-address the sodium to potassium ratio are also essential. Finally, and most crucially, ensure that stock have regular access to a high-quality magnesium supplement.

Magnesium supplements are available from ForFarmers to help prevent grass staggers. Magnesium chloride flakes have high solubility, this allows a faster absorption into the bloodstream. Magnesium chloride is usually given as a dietary supplement and can also be used as part of a TMR diet. High magnesium cattle buckets are a handy way to provide this essential nutrient, as well as other critical minerals and vitamins to animals in situations where powdered minerals are unavailable, such as sheep at pasture or suckler cows.

Beef grazing

Enhanced beef knowledge

During the month, I have vastly improved my understanding of beef diets and tailoring the nutritional needs for finishing cattle.

Next month, I am looking forward to Dairy-Tech which is being held at Stoneleigh park in Warwickshire. This will be a great opportunity for to network and meet more colleagues in the company. I am lucky to be attending this event which was postponed.

Afbeelding: Josie signature 2