Winter finishing, making the correct choices:

As the majority of livestock is now housed for the winter feeding period, analysis of home saved forages and calculation of fodder budgets should occur on all farms as soon as possible if already not completed. By conducting these exercises, farmers can gain a valuable insight into how long their home saved forage will last and also what type of supplementary feeds they will need to purchase to complement their forage for the coming winter months.

The winter feeding period is a very important time in beef finishing units, and it is essential that maximum daily live weight gains are achieved, particularly considering the cost of winter finishing. The choice of a robust feeding strategy is therefore crucial to ensure that the finishing steer achieves an average daily live weight gain of 1-1.5kg/head/day, a bull 1.5-1.9kg/head/day and a heifer 0.75-1.0kg/head/day.

Finishing diets should be kept as simple as possible, in general a 3-4 way mix containing energy, protein and a fibre source with added minerals should be sufficient for all finishing livestock. Diets should be formulated on an energy basis as opposed to protein levels. A UFV energy value of over 0.95 and a protein level of 12.5-13% should be the target for finishing diets. Knowledge of forage quality will allow for diets to be tweaked accordingly in relation to the forages energy, protein and digestibility levels.

When purchasing supplementary feeds, it is important to choose only high quality ingredients where possible. Barley is normally the best choice energy source; others include wheat, maize and molasses. Protein sources include rapeseed, maize gluten and soyabean meal, with maize distillers also being very useful due to its high energy content. The main digestible fibre feeds available are citrus pulp, soya hulls and beet pulp. If feeding an ad-lib diet it is important to build up the animals dry matter intakes (DMI) slowly, this will help prevent any metabolic disorders occurring such as acidosis, therefore helping to avert any negative impact on fibre digestion.

Introducing molasses or a molasses blend to these beef finishing diets will have many positive effects. Molasses, will not only aid in increasing the rations palatability, it will also improve the animals dry matter intake while helping to uniformly carry minerals throughout the feed. Furthermore, molasses will also reduce ration sorting while helping to increase the nutrient density of the diet. In addition to these benefits molasses will help improve the rumens eco-system while also increasing energy parturition within the animal.


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