Monday 27 April 2020The Scottish Farmer - Re-born 'Vitagold' proves a cost effective alternative!
Written by Kathryn Dick published by The Scottish Farmer
Compound feeding can be an expensive luxury in livestock farming these days, but feed specialists, Duynie, believe the re-born product – Vitagold – is the ultimate in feeding if you’re looking to cushion the bank balance.
“This is a high energy and protein rich feed that can enrich all diets and makes a cost effective alternative to dried distillers feeds. It contains fine-textured spent grains produced from Scottish wheat spirit distilleries, containing good levels of spent yeast fragments from the distillation process, so ultimately it is a co-product,” commented Douglas Carruthers, Scottish sales manager for Duynie.
Vitagold was a popular feed for almost 25 years, before coming off the market five years ago. That left many farmers looking for an alternative that had the same nutritional requirements and money-saving attributes.
The product then returned to feed stores in September, 2019, and has since been in demand across the whole of the UK.
Douglas commented that one of his customers was struggling to make money and milk prices were going down, so he approached him with the idea of switching to Vitagold.
“The herd comprised of 600 Holstein cattle that are housed all year round are fed using a TMR, which includes home-grown silage,” he said.
“I had a look at what he was feeding the herd and he had a very simple ration, and was very dependent on compound feed. I mentioned that Vitagold was again available for inclusion, so he made the switch and this cheapened his ration massively.”
Douglas said that the new co-product ration helped rumen digestion, which makes the most of home-grown silage, allowing the cows to get more out of it.
Managing director of Duynie, Phil Sparks, has almost 30 years experience in ration nutrition and explained the small changes he made to dramatically reduce the herd owner’s ration costs.
“Adjusting a ration is very simple. An animal, no matter what it is, needs certain amount nutrition with all constitutions in the right place, combined with the right levels,” said Phil. “It doesn’t matter where you get them from, however some materials are of higher quality than others.
“As long as you fulfil what the animal needs it doesn’t matter what you feed but it ultimately all comes down to cost.”
Douglas approached Phil with the original ration and asked for his help in tweaking it to better suit the farmer’s financial pressures.
“The advantage of using co-products is that your using a material of higher quality as it’s derived from human food and nothing is being altered or added. The only downside is that you have to buy in bulk but, ultimately, this will save you money in the long run,” Phil added.
“The original ration worked – it utilised the farmer’s own forages and sources, which is great as they contain fibre and bulk, however they tend to be lower in nutritional value.
“So we put in Vitagold and reduced his compound, changing nothing else in the ration. As a result the cost went down from £4.20 per head per cow to £3.84. To show the farmer how much money he could really be saving, we took it one step further and increased Vitagold and decreased compound, and the costs went from £3.84 to £3.46,” Phil commented.
“It is a clear and simple ration, which shows farmers that with small changes they can save a huge amount of money and we worked out that this specific farmer could save around £45,000 per year on his feeding costs alone.”
Phil added that Scotland has abundance of the highest quality co-products available in country, via whisky distilleries and neutral spirit distilleries, and that Scottish farmers could be taking full advantage of their sources.
“I can’t get Scottish farmers to understand the benefit of what they have. Its frustrating when you see farmers who are good with livestock, but they simply don’t look after the bank balance or business side of the farm and then get poor advise from people trying to sell compound,” he said.
“We are selling distillers grains at 70-80% of their actual feed value, so we are saving the farmer 20-30% of what he’d be spending on another feed, but they still don’t want to use them – change is a daunting prospect.”
Phil concluded by commenting on the huge pressure there is on farmers in regards to production costs nowadays, especially feed, however there are alternatives out there if farmers want to see it.