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Handy Hints: Feeding Waste Products to Beef Cattle

As margins come under pressure, the drive to reduce feed costs means many farmers will be looking at alternative low cost feedstuffs. Chloe Palmer learns more.

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Buying by-products from the human food industry is one way of sourcing feed with a high nutritive value at a lower cost.


SAC Consulting ruminant nutritionist Karen Stewart says by-products are often highly nutritious and can be inexpensive to feed, but caution must be exercised when choosing the right one.


She says: “By-products can appear cheap to buy but quality differs between suppliers and batches. Dry matter values and moisture contents can be variable and farmers should be careful they are not buying in large quantities of water.”


Mrs Stewart recommends asking for an analysis for each product rather than relying on standard figures.


Thinking about how the by-products will complement home-grown feed is also vital, she says.


“Think about what you grow, what stock you are feeding and what is currently in deficit in your rations. For example, where wholecrop cereals are fed there is likely to be a shortfall of protein, so choosing a by-product which is high in protein is desirable.


“Decide how a product will be fed and how quickly it will be used. Due to higher moisture contents, many by-products do not keep well. Syrups may need a storage tank and adding it to the ration can be more difficult without a mixer wagon.”

Types of waste product

Co-products vary in their moisture content, physical characteristics, keeping quality and palatability. Understanding how these factors vary between products and recommended rates of inclusion in rations is essential.

Co-products from malting, brewing and distilling

  • Brewers’ grains come from the brewing process and are the solid residue left after processing germinated and dried cereal grains (malt) for the production of beer and other malt products
  • Malt residual pellets are made from dried sprouted barley roots and malt screenings from the malting process
  • Moist distillery co-products such as Traffordgold® are usually moist feeds produced from starch processing in the production of a range of human foods
  • Pot ale syrup is the high protein, condensed residue remaining in the first still in malt whisky production

Bread and bakery waste is palatable and energy rich and provides a useful alternative to cereal grain. Digestibility can be higher due to the lower fibre content but this can lead to acidosis due to the rapid digestion of starch. These products are also high in salt (1-3 per cent).

 

Derived from bakery waste meal, biscuit meal is sometimes available. It is highly palatable and provides good energy levels. The starch and oil content are both high and can cause digestive upsets if large quantities are introduced to the diet too quickly. Limit to 30 er cent of the dry matter intake.

 

Sweets and chocolate have a high sugar and fat content and are palatable but generally low in protein. There is a potential risk of acidosis unless introduced slowly with a gradual increase in feed rate.

 

Carrots are high in moisture (85-90 per cent) with low protein content (10 per cent crude protein). While digestible, high levels in the diet can result in off-coloured fat in finished cattle and sheep, and may cause a taint in milk if fed for prolonged periods in large amounts.

 

Rapeseed meal is created from the extraction of oil from oilseed rape with a high oil content limiting the scope for inclusion in feed rations, particularly those high in protein. Dry matter values are high at about 90 per cent and typical crude protein levels are about 32 per cent with low crude fibre (11 per cent).

 

Apple pomace is a by-product of the cider making industry and contains high levels of pectins but a low energy content. Dry matter values for this product can vary significantly so this is a critical consideration when sourcing apple pomace as it also has low protein content (6-8 per cent).

 

Citrus pulp is a by-product of pressing citrus fruits containing high energy levels and it is a good source of digestible fibre and sugar. It serves as a useful ingredient in rations when combined with cereal and protein sources as protein levels are typically low (about 6 per cent). The recommended feed rate is no more than 3-4kg per day.

 

Beet pulp is a high energy by-product of sugar processing providing a good source of digestible fibre but low crude protein levels – about 10 per cent. The larger, harder pellet beet pulp is unsuitable for sheep.

Feeding waste and by products

Always seek advice from a qualified nutritionist before changing diets by incorporating waste and by-products into a ration.

 

  • Calculate costings for the by-product on a dry matter basis compared to other feeds and, where possible, complete a full cost analysis by balancing the product for energy, fibre, protein and minerals for the co-product in question
  • Consider availability and consistency of product. Will it be available all year in sufficient quantities and required quality?
  • Check quality assurance. Ensure the co-product is assured for use on farm and will meet own farm assurance standards
  • Many by-products have limitations on feed rates. Consider how the product will complement other feed stuffs on-farm and avoid feeding many different products in small quantities
  • Ensure there are suitable and sufficient storage facilities available for the product in question. For example, moist co-products, such as brewers grains and distilling waste, will require a clean, concreted area for storage and cannot be kept for long periods without ensiling
  • Think about how quickly the product will be used as many will develop yeasts and moulds and wastage will increase feed costs dramatically
  • Consider method of feeding. Feeding by-products in a mixer wagon can be easier and results in less waste but the right choice will depend on the other feedstuffs in the ration and farmer preference
  • Always introduce a new feedstuff gradually into the ration. Many co-products are low in minerals, vitamins and trace elements, so consult your nutritionist to ensure the correct levels are available in the ration
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