Co-products from the food and beverage industry are a crucial component to dairy and beef diets on one Buckinghamshire farm.
Operating a ‘circular system’ which utilises co-products makes sense to farm manager Mark Woodin, who aims to integrate every aspect of the mixed farming enterprise at Chilton Home Farms.
The slurry and farmyard manure from cattle goes back onto the land to boost soil fertility and optimise crop yields.
Grass and maize grown for livestock also acts as a useful break crop against black-grass in the arable rotation, while straw is used for bedding and incorporated into the dairy ration.
Staff are also shared across all aspects of the business.
Mr Woodin says: “We are utilising and putting everything back into the farm we possibly can.” That means all of the beef from the dairy is finished on-farm, with an additional 170 stores also bought-in annually.
A sexed and beef strategy avoids the production of lower value black and white bull calves, maximising the income of every calf produced.
Co-products produced from the food, beverage and biofuel industries fit neatly within the system.
Mr Woodin chooses to feed brewers grains produced as a by-product of brewing, citrus pulp from fruit juice production and processed bread from bakeries.
All of these inputs are bought from Duynie Feed.
In doing so, he is ‘closing the loop’ in the food production chain.
In the case of brewers grains and bread, this means a product which was originally grown on an arable farm as wheat or barley is going back to a farm to be fed to livestock.
Farmyard manure is then applied back to the arable land as organic fertiliser, creating a circular system.
Mr Woodin sees it as getting value from a by-product.
He says: “We are using co-products out of UK factories, which otherwise possibly go to landfill or an anaerobic digester.
These co-products add variety to the ration without over complicating it.” Brewers grains and citrus pulp are incorporated into the 250-cow dairy herd’s total mixed ration (TMR).
Cows yield 9,500 litres, with milk sold to Sainsbury’s.
With the farm tending to produce high dry matter (DM) forages, the moist co-products help improve ration palatability and avoid sorting.
Mr Woodin says: “Citrus helps with butterfats and I think its palatability helps with intakes.
Our grass and maize tend to be quite dry; the citrus pulp and brewers grains add moisture to the diet helping to bind everything together.
This increases the total dry matter intake, which helps maximise the use of homegrown forage.” He believes the brewers grains and citrus pulp complement each other as the grains drive yields, while the citrus helps butterfats.
The inclusion of chopped straw in the diet also helps the butterfat.
The winter diet is rationed to deliver maintenance plus 26-27 litres and intakes of 22-23kg of DM per head.
On a fresh weight basis, the diet includes 16kg maize silage, 16kg grass silage, one-third of a kilo of chopped wheat straw, 9kg of blend, 5kg of brewers grains, 3kg citrus pulp plus minerals, protected fat and yeast.
Cows are also fed to yield through the parlour up to 4kg/head.
Producing quality forage is high on the agenda, with last year’s maize silage analysing at 12.3ME, 36 per cent starch and 42 per cent DM.
First cut grass was 75 D value, 12 ME, 17 per cent crude protein and 41 per cent DM.
Mr Woodin adds: “When you are trying to feed high quantities of forage, it can get a bit bland.
We use brewers grains to add palatability and to tweak protein in the ration, along with a blend.
It works well for us. It eeks out forage too.” Cows are grazed in the summer, although grazing is not a primary focus for the business.
Cows continue to be buffer fed a similar TMR mix throughout the grazing season.
Processed bread is used to provide a high source of starch in beef finisher diets.
Brewers grains and citrus pulp are introduced to yearling beef cattle.
They then move onto the finisher diet, which includes 8kg of grass silage, 8kg of maize silage, 6kg of brewers grains, 4kg of bread and 3kg of citrus pulp.
He says: “Cattle love it [moist co-products].
They think it’s wonderful.” Consistency is a big plus when using these types of feeds as the quality remains reliable between loads.
In general, Mr Woodin says co-products tend to be cost-effective, although they can go up in price when forage stocks are low on a national level.
He says: “It is one reason we contract buy, as this helps us manage our feed costs.” All of his co-products are bought from Duynie Feed, which he has been trading with for about 25 years, because of the good service and personal relationship.
Forward buying also ensures a consistent, fresh supply.
For example, the farm will receive a load of brewers grains every two weeks, citrus pulp every month and bread every other month.
He says: “It just works for us.
It means we are buying a fresh product throughout the year and maximising our silage clamps.
It is a way to make the ration more palatable.” Storage is also straightforward.
Processed bread is put in a silage pit with a layer of citrus pulp on top.
The pulp removes the need for a sheet, providing sufficient weight and stopping birds from getting to the bread.
Citrus pulp may also be used in a similar way on top of the brewers grains.
He says: “We have no problem with the bread keeping when it’s covered.
We push it down with a bucket before we put the citrus on.
“The use of co-products in our dairy and beef systems and the utilisation of manure on the arable land, which provides milling wheat for the bakeries and malting barley for the brewers, is assisting to close the loop in food production and the total success of our farm.”