A Yorkshire beef unit which finishes 1,600 head a year is using co-products from the food and beverage industry as part of a balanced diet to help achieve growth rates of 1.8-2kg/day.
Mark Green views a combination of home-grown feeds and co-products as the most cost effective way of finishing native breeds, while also helping the farm’s environmental footprint.
At Laund House Farm, it is all about ‘utilising more from less’.
That means all of the main components of the diet are either home-grown or bought-in as co-products from the food and beverage industry.
This includes ground crisps, distiller’s syrups and raw potato chips. Mr Green says: “It is important to utilise as many co-products as possible to save wastage.
They have a value. They don’t deserve to be wasted.
“Moving forward, it has got to help the farm’s green credentials.” Mr Green, wife Joey and son Edward run an arable and beef enterprise in the Vale of York.
Dairy cross Hereford or Aberdeen-Angus cattle are bought as stores and taken through to finish.
About half of the arable crops are fed to the cattle as rolled barley and crimped wheat, while chopped straw makes up the forage component of the diet.
The farmyard manure from the cattle then goes back on the land to provide essential organic matter to help soil fertility.
The farm’s beef contract stipulates cattle must be fed on a forage-based diet and grazed for part of their life.
This grazing period takes place on the rearer units where Mr Green sources stock.
Once they arrive at Laund House Farm, they are housed and gradually introduced onto the finisher diet over a period of 10 days.
The same ration is fed throughout the 70- to 80-day finisher period.
Consistency of feeding and minimising stress are viewed as some of the most important factors in hitting average growth rates across steers and heifer of 1.8-2kg a day throughout this finishing period.
Mr Green says: “Cattle are housed in their arrival groups.
We don’t mix any. We try and get batches of 30, 40 or 50 animals so it fills a yard so they can be quarantined.
That quarantine is crucial. They’re in the same social group.
The key to everything we do is; keep them calm and don’t stress them.” A tracker system on the mixer wagon also promotes consistency of ration mixing by telling the operator how much of each ingredient to add and when.
“Consistency is massively important. Every mouthful of every feed has to be the same,” Mr Green says.
This keeps animals on an even keel and helps growth rates stay on track.
“It is important to utilise as many co-products as possible to save wastage”
Whether it is weighing cattle, routinely analysing the ration or tracking intakes, monitoring performance is at the heart of the operation at Laund House Farm.
Mrs Green says: “I get all of our ingredients analysed.
I get the results, forward them to our nutritionist Emily Keep and discuss it with her.
“We just make sure the ration is doing what it should be and we cross-reference it with daily liveweight gains and grades.” It is rare any changes need to be made.
In fact, the ration has not altered for the last 18 months.
However, Mr Green believes keeping a finger on the pulse is vital to ensure performance is maintained.
To check performance:
Cows are fed twice-a-day and the aim is for them to clean up everything, just prior to feed out to ensure their needs are met, while avoiding waste
The ration is formulated by Duynie Feed nutritionist Emily Keep.
Together with 2kg/head of chopped straw, the ration includes distiller’s syrup, processed crisps and raw potato chips sourced from Duynie Feed.
Ground maize meal, which is a co-product of maize milling, is also included, along with dry wheat distillers and crimped home-grown wheat.
Limestone flour, bicarbonate of soda, minerals and enzymes are also included for gut health and digestion.
The raw chips provide starch, while the distiller’s syrup delivers protein and energy.
The crisps are high in starch, but are largely included for energy on account of their high oil content.
At 28 per cent, this oil level means they cannot be incorporated at high levels.
“Our ration is 5.5 per cent oil. It’s on the high side, but we don’t go over the top on oil as it can cause big digestive issues and make them loose,” Mr Green says.
The straw acts as an important ‘carrier’ for all of the ingredients.
It also slows the passage through the rumen to promote ration utilisation and aid gut health.
With straw acting as the main forage ingredient, Miss Keep says the co-products help boost ration palatability.
Emily says: “Mark doesn’t grow silage so trying to get cattle to eat 2kg of chopped straw is not an easy feat.
“The SedaGold syrup sourced locally from the Sedamyl factory at Selby really helps palatability.
It coats everything nicely aiding intakes, reducing sorting and helps ensure consistent mouthfuls for the cattle.
“The raw potato chips also bring succulence to the ration.” Mr Green says: “I am a really big believer that animals will eat with their noses.
Palatability is first and foremost what we want to achieve. The co-products are very palatable.
If we can drive intakes we can lift daily liveweight gain as long as it is done efficiently.” He also believes the rations delivers on performance, while meeting both the needs of the cattle and contract requirements.
“This gives us excellent growth without laying down fat and it is cost-effective versus growing maize or grass silage.
And it’s also a safer diet. If you fed ad-lib barley, you would be at risk of acidosis.”