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British sugar beet feed the secret to cattle feeding success

Whether feeding youngstock, beef cows or dairy cows, the secret to success lies in maximising the benefits that come from their unique digestive system. The rumen is capable of converting huge volumes of lower cost plant material into high value meat or milk, but only if supplied with the correct balance of feeds to maintain a good healthy fermentation.

The speed of this fermentation is driven by how quickly the energy in the feeds is broken down in the rumen, but maximum efficiency – and the most efficient conversion of feed into production – occurs only when the rumen microbes receive a more controlled supply of nutrients. If too much energy is available too quickly, the result is an excess production of lactic acid in the rumen, creating an acid environment (low pH) that disrupts normal rumen activity.

Recognising acidosis

The result is a condition called acidosis, a digestive upset of the rumen that can either be acute (causing a dramatic and immediate drop-off in feed intakes, growth and milk production) or can occur at a less obvious, sub-clinical level. This sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA for short) will produce a general reduction in animal vigour, feed intake and productive performance that can easily go unnoticed.

The other key indicator that acidosis might be an issue is very loose dung. Typically seen when cattle are turned out onto lush spring grass or fed a ration containing too much cereal, it’s a clear signal that a more balanced diet is needed.

Sugar beet feed solution

And this is where sugar beet feed has such an important role to play. Many energy feeds contain high levels of starch (e.g. cereal grains) and low levels of digestible fibre, which together this can create an acidosis risk. What’s needed is a balancing source of energy that breaks down in the rumen more slowly, with the digestible fibre in sugar beet feed one of the best options available.

Including sugar beet feed in youngstock, beef or dairy rations is probably the most cost-effective way to help create a balanced supply of energy in the rumen and help reduce the incidence of acidosis. Ideal as a supplement fed alongside grazed grass, silage, cereals or cereal-based concentrates, the result is better feed intakes, more milk and better growth – not only are digestive upsets avoided, but the improved rumen fermentation will convert all feed more efficiently into production.

Highly palatable

Sugar beet feed is also highly palatable, with the additional molasses added to many sugar beet products helping to further drive feed intakes and increase production. Beef cattle fed dry cereal-based finishing rations benefit hugely from the improvements in rumen fermentation and intake that follow inclusion of sugar beet feed, whilst the digestible fibre in sugar beet feed is known to promote milk fat production.

Feeding sugar beet feed as a replacement for part of the cereal-based concentrates fed to dairy cows is one of the best ways to maintain or improve milk butterfat percentage, particularly important when supplying milk for cheese production on a ‘constituent’ contract or even when just trying to achieve a minimum butterfat level.

Feeding guidelines

The table (Table 1) shows recommended feeding rates for British sugar beet feed, with the robust pellets ideal for use in mechanical feeding systems like those found in milking parlours, or for feeding in troughs, spread on top of silage or even on the ground.

Table 1 – Suggested cattle feeding rates for sugar beet feed

Feed rates for sugar beet feed

( dry quantities per animal per day)

Milking cows

Up to 6kg (typically 3kg)

Dry cows

Up to 2kg

Replacement heifers

Up to 2.0kg and up to 40% of DMI*

Calves (to 12 weeks of age)

Up to 1.5kg and up to 40% of DMI*

Growing cattle

Up to 2.5kg and up to 40% of DMI*

Finishing cattle

Up to 5.0kg and up to 50% of DMI*

Suckler cows

Up to 4kg (typically 2kg)

* DMI = dry matter intake.

Sugar beet feed is more cost-effective than the other main sources of digestible fibre sometimes fed to cattle – it has a higher energy content than soya hulls, extra protein compared to citrus pulp and is more palatable than either. Sugar beet feed is also more effective in buffering the rumen against acidosis.

Robust, fully traceable, non-GM pellet

UK-produced sugar beet feed is unique in being made only from fully traceable, non-GM, sugar beet grown on British farms. And being grown and processed in the UK, as opposed to imported from overseas, it allows very close control over quality throughout the feed production chain, from planting right through to the distribution of sugar beet feed onto farm or to retail stores.

The result is a feed you can trust to be perform consistently, reliably and economically. For year-round improvement of rumen fermentation and production efficiency, British sugar beet feed really is very hard to beat.

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