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Stackyard News Oct 06

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    High Starch Ration Boosts Margins In Intensive Beef

A £96/head increase in gross margin was the key financial benefit from feeding a quality high starch concentrate to intensively reared beef cattle in a recent trial conducted at Harper Adams University College for Wynnstay.
Steve Brown (left) with Simon Marsh

NBA chairman, Duff Burrell

In the eight-month study that monitored the performance of 30 bulls from around 195kg through to slaughter, animals receiving a 33% starch proprietary beef nut recorded a £126/head gross margin compared with £30/head by the control group that was fed a typical “low cost” concentrate. The improved financial return was due to significantly higher growth rates and carcass weights, and improvements in feed conversion efficiency.

The low starch beef nut (8% starch) would mirror many of the ‘low cost’ diets currently being fed in intensive rearing situations, according to Harper Adams’ beef specialist Simon Marsh, and was formulated to offer comparable crude protein and energy levels to Wynnstay’s Prime Beef nut.

“Very little recent research is available on the optimum starch content for intensively reared beef cattle,” he says, “so this project is significant in offering some much-needed guidelines.

“We compared two diets of identical energy and protein status under trial conditions, with only the starch content varying. Using standard costs at the time of the trial, the low starch ration was about 5% cheaper than the high starch ration, but the difference in performance was quite remarkable.

“Cattle on the high starch nut actually exceeded the targets that we would set for this type of system, assuming optimum conditions and management.”

Holstein bulls housed in straw yards came into the trial at around 5 months of age, averaging just under 195kg liveweight, and received their respective concentrate rations ad lib along with straw.

No health problems were recorded in either group during the trial period, and cattle were selected for slaughter at fat class 3.

The high starch group reached slaughter weight 12 days earlier on average and with over 22kg additional carcass weight. Though not statistically significant, there was also an improvement in killing out percentage and in the carcass classification of the cattle receiving the high starch ration, which contributed to a higher price per kilogram.

According to Steve Brown, ruminant technical manager for Wynnstay’s feeds division, the trial illustrates key technical details that need to be taken account of if beef producers are to be profitable in the future.

“Whether you are producing beef for premium branded markets, or more of a commodity product, technical details will make the difference between profit and loss,” he stresses.

“This work shows that a lower cost ration is unlikely to result in a higher margin, because it is performance – and not just price/tonne – that dictates profit.

“Intensive beef is most likely to be about throughput, so reducing the time to slaughter and increasing the value of the finished animal is of paramount importance.”

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