Friday 23 July 2021Co-products for Effective and Economic Feeding - A Beef & Lamb Case Study

Making the most of a mixed farm takes a lot of skill. Maximising your arable yields calls for an in-depth understanding of your land and your crops, while growing and finishing livestock in a turbulent market isn’t for the fainthearted. On his farm near Ledbury in Herefordshire, Edd Poole juggles all of these challenges.

Edd runs the modern mixed family farm alongside his parents. It’s set in classic English countryside of rolling hills and combines arable fields with permanent pasture. This is grazed by sheep and beef cattle.

The beef operation

The Poole family finishes a mix of continental and Friesian cattle and a handful of Angus. All animals are bought from Hereford or Cirencester livestock markets and sold on when finished to Foyles at Cinderford. The herd currently numbers 150, but there’s capacity to expand that up to 200.

The farm’s system focuses on buying in stores at either 350 kg or 500 kg. The smaller animals start on a grower ration before transitioning to a finishing ration. Larger animals go straight onto the finisher.

Making the system efficient demands a balance between minimising costs and maximising daily live-weight gains. This is particularly challenging in an economic climate where the costs of both store animals and feed are high. The goal is to hit 350 kg to 380 kg deadweight for steers and 300kg deadweight for heifers, with the continentals grading at R3 to R4L and friesians at O+3 to O+4L. 

Getting the rations right

Before making the switch to Duynie products, Edd was feeding an ad-lib combination of silage with a home-mixed dry blend. The ration included homegrown barley and beans, biscuit meal and high-protein beef nuts. This was custom-blended on the farm by a mill-and-mix company.

When another local farmer mentioned they were trying co-products and could see benefits in using moist feeds, Edd got in touch with his local Duynie sales manager, who suggested a change of feeds. Not only has adjusting his rations proven cost-effective, but it has also increased uptake and boosted performance.

Emily Keep, Duynie’s Rumen Nutritionist, worked with the Poole's to formulate the ration. She observes that “palatability, presentation, and consistency has been key to improving performance. We were able to supplement the dry silage and straights with highly palatable brewer’s grains and moist citrus pulp to produce a well-balanced, nutritious ration which is the same each day. These co-products add succulence and help drive feed intakes.”

Things didn’t change overnight, of course – it was a gradual process. Because the farm didn’t have a feeder wagon, customising the mix was a manual process. Duynie worked initially to maximise the existing system with the introduction of co-products. As the potential savings and performance improvements became apparent, Edd and the family made the decision to invest in a wagon.

Having fed a mix containing brewer’s grains and citrus pulp for the past 12 months, the Poole’s are seeing tangible results. By combining the co-products with barley, biscuit meal and beans, they’ve achieved a ration that’s more palatable, better presented and achieves tidy DLWGs. The growers are achieving 1.4 kg/day, while the finishers are weighing in at 1.6 to 1.7 kg/day. Ed observes “the cattle always appear full and happy, they look healthier and have a good shine on their coats.”

As staying on top of costs is also a key consideration, Emily Keep notes that “brewer’s grains are a good protein source and reduced the reliance on the dry protein pellet when compound costs were rising.”

Home-bred lambs

If ever there was a place where margins are tight, it’s in the growing of lambs. On the Poole farm, they run a flock of 300 Texel X and Suffolk X ewes, which is served by Texel and Charolais rams. The best offspring are selected as replacements, the remaining lambs being fattened for sale at Ross-on-Wye livestock market.

Finding a cost-effective way of achieving optimum DLWGs is key to making the sheep operation work. That means formulating a high-performing ration that promotes enthusiastic uptake but doesn’t break the bank.

Feeding the Flock

Barley, beans and biscuit meal was previously the home-mix of choice for the farm. The decision to introduce co-products was made in an attempt to reduce cost and boost performance. Now, brewer’s grains are mixed in the feeder wagon with dry feeds (such as barley and biscuit meal) and distributed through hopper feeders.

Two months into the experiment in feeding co-products to lambs, the results are looking promising. The animals are keen to eat the palatable ration and there’s been a noticeable reduction in scours, which is a common cause of lost condition in lambs transitioning to dry feed.

Facts and stats

  • For the cattle ration, brewer’s grains are covered with citrus pulp and stored outside on concrete
  • The lamb ration starts with brewer’s grains being tipped on the floor in the yard. These are then mixed with the dry elements and the whole blend is stored in tote bags
  • Adding co-products to the cattle ration has meant a saving of 22p per head per day for growers and 21p per head per day for finishers. For a herd of 150 across 12 months, that equates to a saving of around £11,700 on feed
  • By introducing brewer’s grains to its mix, the farm is seeing a saving of approximately £80 per tonne comparing to current lamb grower blends

Should you try co-product feeds?

For the Poole family, the ability to have a continuous open conversation with Duynie is essential. Expert advice on nutrition is always available and is pivotal in getting – and keeping – the ration right. Thanks to this ongoing support, the Pooles can be sure they have an effective and flexible feed regime that’s aligned to the needs to the livestock and the business.

When it comes to co-products, Edd’s advice is to be open-minded and give them a try to see what positive impact it can have on your system. As he says “the world of co-products is huge and gives farmers more choice.”


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