Dr Matt Witt, Nutritionist
How can you improve profitability per kg of live weight gain with Mole Valley Farmers?
Feed is a major cost on any beef system and understanding your feed costs in terms of pence per kg of live weight gain is a major factor in reducing expense, and ultimately improving profitability.
Continually improving feed efficiency should be the aim of any beef farmer because it is so influential on profitability. There are a number of factors in addition to a diet that can significantly influence feed efficiency including gender, genetics, health, stress and cattle comfort, which should also be considered. From a nutrition point of view, the ration you put in front of your animals, what it is made up of, how it is put together and how it is offered all play a major role in feed efficiency and therefore cost of growth and finish.
What is feed efficiency?
Simply put, feed efficiency is the amount of feed your animals have to eat in order to grow. As a result, it can be used to monitor the cost of growth, proportioned to feed. An animal growing at 1.4kg per day being fed a ration costing £1.66 per day has a cost of growth of £1.19 per kg live weight gain (£1.66 divided by 1.4kg).
Why is understanding the cost of growth important?
Beef is generally sold on a p/kg basis, whether live weight or dead weight. For example, the sale price of an animal taken to market will be the combination of the weight of the animal sold and the price in terms of pence per kg live weight the buyer is willing to pay. So, for a 560kg steer sold for £1.78 per kg the gross selling price is £1.78 x 560 = £996.80.
The feed cost of growing and finishing beef animals will vary from farm to farm and will typically range from £0.90 to £1.40 per kg live weight gain. Understanding where you sit with your feed costs will help you set improvement targets going forward to improve your margins.
What ration steps can you take to improve your cost of growth?
The first step is to make the most of what you have on or around your farm. When it comes to forage, attention to detail and striving to make the best quality you can will always improve your ration and lower your feed costs. Balancing your on-farm feeds is where Mole Valley Farmers can help by finding cost-effective feeds that fill the holes of the ration to specifically improve feed efficiency and thereby reduce the cost of growth.
Our animals require a range of nutrients to grow efficiently.
Oversupply of one nutrient will generally mean you are restricting another. To give an example, rations containing too much fibre will generally be low in starch. This imbalance will cause lower appetites and poorer rumen output, ultimately lowering animal performance and increasing growth costs.
Rations should be tailored to what you are trying to achieve.
The nutrient requirements of a young Limousin steer needing to put on the frame will be very different to a slower-growing Aberdeen Angus heifer needing finish. Therefore, making sure all the required nutrients fall within the correct ranges for the type of animals being fed is essential to cut the cost of growth. Mole Valley Farmers has developed a rationing system that optimises key nutrients (some examples are given in the table) within optimum ranges, allowing beef animals to express their potential and produce the most cost-effective live weight gain possible.
Utilising Mole Valley Farmers’ Precision Beef Rationing Service will ensure your ration is balanced for all the essential nutrients. This will give your animals the best chance of efficient growth, whilst lowering costs.