Choose the right en­ergy sources for an op­ti­mum fin­ish

Irish Independent - Farming - - OUR FARM - GERRY GIGGINS

AC­TIV­ITY in the marts is ramp­ing up as au­tumn marks the start of the win­ter feed­ing pe­riod. Wean­ling and store cat­tle trad­ing will peak over the com­ing weeks.

The hope for beef fin­ish­ers is that these an­i­mals can be bought at a rea­son­able price and at the other end be met by a good de­mand at fin­ish­ing. It’s the eter­nal gam­ble!

For the ma­jor­ity of beef pro­duc­ers, with the ex­cep­tion of for­ward store an­i­mals, there will be two key phases in the pro­duc­tion of an an­i­mal to the re­quired mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

The fi­nal fin­ish­ing stage is pro­ceeded by the early adap­tion and grow­ing pe­riod.

At all stages of the pro­duc­tion curve it is vi­tal that the cor­rect en­ergy and pro­tein bal­ances are be­ing achieved.

In or­der to hit these tar­gets, a plan should be drawn up based on the type of an­i­mals that will be fed and the range of feeds that are on farm or avail­able to pur­chase and the de­sired fin­ish­ing date.

No mat­ter the breed of an­i­mal or stage of growth, the cor­rect bal­ance of en­ergy and pro­tein sources avail­able to the ru­men will en­sure op­ti­mum feed util­i­sa­tion and an­i­mal per­for­mance.

Beef fin­ish­ers will al­ways pri­mar­ily fo­cus on their en­ergy feed sources. En­ergy is sup­plied to the an­i­mal from four main sources; starch, sugar, fi­bre and fat/ oil.

Us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of qual­ity car­bo­hy­drate sources can help to max­imise ru­men per­for­mance. In my last ar­ti­cle I out­lined the op­tions for stor­ing and treat­ing ce­real grains.

This year is no dif­fer­ent in the fact that Irish grain rep­re­sents the best value en­ergy feed source avail­able to live­stock farm­ers, es­pe­cially around har­vest time.

Bar­ley, wheat, trit­i­cale and oats can be used at vary­ing lev­els in both grow­ing and fin­ish­ing ra­tions. Maize grain re­mains the most pop­u­lar im­ported en­ergy feed op­tion on Irish beef farms.

Given the high qual­ity yet rel­a­tively safe form of starch sup­plied by maize grain, it makes for an ex­cel­lent com­pan­ion to na­tive grains in beef fin­ish­ing ra­tions.

Pro­vid­ing a fin­ish­ing an­i­mal with max­i­mum starch and sug­ars lev­els with­out com­pro­mis­ing ru­men func­tion will go a long way to pro­vid­ing max­i­mum growth lev­els and the de­sired car­cass fin­ish (fat scores).

A high qual­ity beef fin­ish­ing ra­tion should con­tain a min­i­mum 45pc com­bined starch and sugar con­tent of the ra­tion dry mat­ter.


Maize silage and fod­der beet both re­main pop­u­lar choices on Irish beef farms. While both crops are still await­ing har­vest, re­ports from around the coun­try sug­gest promis­ing yields and ex­cel­lent qual­ity for both crops.

Maize silage pro­vides an ex­cel­lent for­age source while not re­duc­ing the over­all en­ergy den­sity of a ra­tion, which is some­times the case with av­er­age or poor qual­ity grass silage.

Feed­ing fod­der beet in­tro­duces high sugar rates into all beef ra­tions while also im­prov­ing the palata­bil­ity and in­creas­ing feed in­takes.

The in­clu­sion of beet in steer and heifer ra­tions will also aid car­cass qual­ity, in­clud­ing con­for­ma­tion and fat scores. Care should be taken when feed­ing fod­der beet or maize silage that the over­all diet is cor­rectly bal­anced for pro­tein and min­eral/vi­ta­min re­quire­ments.

Given the high lev­els of starch and sugar re­quired in in­ten­sive beef fin­ish­ing sce­nar­ios, pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate fi­bre lev­els is para­mount.

The fi­bre lev­els in a ra­tion can be vis­ually judged by the amount of cud chew­ing by an­i­mals, es­pe­cially dur­ing rest pe­ri­ods and from dung tex­ture and con­sis­tency.

Struc­tural fi­bre is best pro­vided by straw in ei­ther ad-lib or TMR sce­nar­ios. I am con­stantly asked as to how I rate the dif­fer­ent straw types avail­able.

Wheat straw is al­ways my pre­ferred choice in in­ten­sive ra­tions.

How­ever oat and bar­ley straw will have to be con­sid­ered given the pre­dicted straw scarcity due to the dif­fi­cult har­vest and bal­ing con­di­tions that we have en­coun­tered.

Crude pro­tein lev­els will vary widely depend­ing on the stage of growth, breed, sex and per­for­mance tar­gets.

We are cur­rently in the pleas­ant sce­nario of rel­a­tively low world­wide pro­tein feed prices.

Soya bean, which gen­er­ally sets the bench­mark for all other pro­tein feeds, is cur­rently trad­ing around €330/tonne, in com­par­i­son with over €500 just two years ago.

As a re­sult of this price and the for­ward con­tract prices on of­fer, us­ing soya as the pri­mary pro­tein source in all ra­tions is top of my rec­om­men­da­tions this win­ter.

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