Wednesday 1 July 2020Introducing Moist Blends to a Beef Suckler System
In a modern beef set-up where success is measured in black and white by daily live-weight gains, the right feed at the right time makes all the difference. On Kevin Hammet’s Herefordshire farm, Duynie Moist Blends didn’t disappoint.
Farming in prime beef country
As a county with a long and illustrious farming past, Herefordshire is synonymous with the production of top-quality beef. Kevin Hammet and his family have followed this tradition for the past 14 years by raising beef cattle on their 1100 acres, not too far from the city of Hereford.
The farm’s changeable terrain encompasses lush river meadows and productive permanent pasture, as well as ground given over to arable production. A suckler herd grazes out through the summer and a high yield of grass silage is produced and stored to keep them going through the months they’re housed indoors.
A modern farming set-up
A group of 100 Limousin and Charolais breeding cows are served by a varied collection of Bazadaise, Limousin, Simmental and Angus bulls. The resulting calves are raised as sucklers. Kevin and the team rear the calves to 11 or 12 months, by which time they have good stocky frames and are achieving great weights to sell as stores at Hereford and Ludlow markets.
The farm’s advanced set up is built to facilitate intensive finishing. Each of the three roofed silage pits can hold 2000 tonnes of grass harvested from the farm’s own land fields. Before switching to Duynie feed, a homegrown cereal mix of barley, wheat and oats was fed ad lib to push daily live-weight gains to over a kilo a day.
Making a change to boost DLWGs
Always keen to push performance and try something new, Kevin liked the sustainable credentials and top-quality ingredients of Duynie feeds. Having always fed dry mixes before, he was keen to trial a moist blend. The bottom-line aims of making a feed-regime switch were to increase DLWGs and improve the quality of the calves. Kevin was also looking for a potential cost saving.
For the Hammet’s, this was a short-term experiment, intended to give them a snapshot of what moist feeds could achieve. The farm is now moving away from the suckler herd to an intensive calf-to-kill system which will aim to turn over around 1200 cattle a year. In partnership with Genus and Meadow Quality it will become a research establishment for beef cattle, with a focus on Belgian Blues. Trialling the moist-feed regime has helped with the transition to the new enterprise and revealed what can be achieved.
During the trial
Duynie Advance Mix was stored in a makeshift pit of straw bales covered with sheeting and fed to the suckler calves for 12 weeks. They had ration of 12kg to 22kg per head per day, which was offered on its own along the feed barrier. Ad-lib straw was also available.
Because the herd was accustomed to a dry mix, the moist blend was introduced gradually. The calves took to it readily, with the transition proving smooth and trouble-free.
Having experienced acidosis issues with their homegrown dry feed, Kevin was pleased to observe these occurred far less frequently with the moist Advance Mix. At the end of the 12-week trial, the growing calves had better frames and improved cover. Animals over 350kg out-performed the smaller calves under 250kg, but on average the sample group saw a DLWG of 1.25kg.
Were they to continue with moist blends after the trial, the Hammet team would mix the product with homegrown grass or maize silage to make it easier for the smaller animals to eat with the aim of levelling performance across the group.
While immediate cost savings were marginal, the financial benefits of feeding the moist blend instead of a traditional cereal-based ad-lib ration were found in other areas. Improved herd health, specifically a marked reduction in the instance of acidosis, meant less need for intervention and outlay on medication.
Furthermore, the finish on the calves at sale age was notably superior, making them more valuable as stores.
Ultimately, trialling a sustainable feed that was new to the farm and seeing that there were quantifiable gains to be made in health and finish encouraged the team to undertake the new venture and expand the system.