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How to cut beef feed costs with protein alternatives

10 April 2017

High protein prices are putting beef margins under increasing strain but cost-effective alternatives, which could reduce monthly feed costs by around £420 for a 200 head beef unit*, are available.

“Frequently provided in the form of rapeseed meal, protein is a critical inclusion in beef rations, as it plays a key role in muscle development and live weight gain,” says Bethany May, Trident Feeds ruminant nutritionist.

“However, it’s generally one of the most expensive components in the diet, and at current prices, producers should consider switching to a more cost-effective protein source to help reduce feed costs,” she adds.

“Wheat distillery liquid feeds, such as Proflo, are a good option and they can be included in any beef grower or finisher ration.

“Replacing 1.5kg/day of standard rapemeal with 3kg/day of Proflo could reduce total ration costs by up to 7p/head/day, or £14/day across 200 cows, while maintaining a potential daily liveweight gain (DLWG) of 1.4kg/day, and supplying the same amount of protein on a dry matter (DM) basis*,” says Miss May.

She notes that when considering another protein supply, it is important to maintain high levels of crude protein (CP), to ensure productivity isn’t compromised, as shown in a recent trial at Harper Adams University.

“The trial looked at the effect of feeding higher levels of CP in continental x dairy bull beef rations. When levels were increased from 12% to 14%, DLWG was improved, which reduced slaughter age by five days, improving margin over feed costs by more than £30 a head,” she explains.

“Proflo offers 40% CP (DM basis), so is a cost-effective and a high-quality protein alternative.”

There are also additional non-nutritional benefits that can be found through feeding a wheat distillery syrup.

“This particular feed source contains high levels of yeast fragments left over from the fermentation process, which have been shown to have beneficial effects on rumen acid production and microbial protein yield. Both factors are linked to improved rumen health, feed conversion efficiency and production.

“As they are fed in liquid form, distillery syrups also improve feed intakes through masking less palatable feeds and reducing the chances of ingredient sorting.”

Miss May concludes that with high protein feed prices unlikely to come down any time soon, making more efficient use of better value feeds is key to maintaining margins. And, with the added benefits of potential improved growth rates and faster finishing, it’s a bonus alongside the feed cost savings.

 *Prices are correct only at time of publication and are subject to change

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