Increasing profit margins through improved levels of efficiency will always remain key for Keith and Margo Stewart, who together with their sons Keith and Chae, operate a mixed arable, breeding and beef finishing unit at Cocklarachy in Aberdeenshire.

Already well known beef specialists, the family who operate a 600-acre unit and currently have around 900 cattle on site, have always based their enterprise on providing the correct nutritionally balanced feed, vaccination and attention to detail, which coupled with home-grown feeds, helps to reduce costs of production.

Cattle are housed and finished mainly on grain with spring purchased stores turned out, then housed in July/August. By providing a higher proportion of grain in the ration and Harbro minerals mixed in with the feed to boost their immune status, they believe their cattle finish within a shorter period of time compared to a ration using more forage.

In previous years, the farm achieved good performance results with home-grown cereals treated on farm with prograin using the Harbro Superbruiser. This ration includes pot ale, Harbro’s Grampian Beef Max and straw and is fed through the Keenan Pace system. However, with the availability of pot ale set to drop, the Stewarts looked for an alternative diet, to find an different protein source that would outperform their existing system.

Hence, a trial was designed to test a new ration, which managed by Professor Nick Jonsson, of Glasgow Vet School, along with Harbro as a partner, saw a diet including Maxammon treated barley, molasses and Beef Max with Yea-Sacc and Rumitech, fed to one half of the cattle while the remainder were fed the previous diet.

Animals were allocated to groups based on equivalence of breed, age, body condition score and liveweight and all cattle were subject to the same animal health management being weighed at the beginning of the study, half way through, and at 90 days, just prior to slaughter.

They were also observed fortnightly during the trial with measured variables including: indices of animal health (lameness, diarrhoea and pneumonia); daily liveweight gain, days required to finish cattle, proportion of animals meeting specifications, cost of ration and rumen analysis.

At the end of the trial – last November – the cattle were weighed and sent to slaughter over a period of just a few weeks. Notably, the results were overwhelmingly in favour of the Maxammon ration, which enabled higher daily liveweight gains and less scour.

The Stewarts were impressed with the end results too which saw a substantial lift in the performance of the bottom third and cattle reaching carcase weight at least 20 days quicker than expected.

Looking to the future, the Stewarts said Maxammon and Rumitech look set to be important components of the nutrition at Cocklarachy, combined with a data driven approach to analyse performance on farm as they strive to increase performance even further.

Of particular significance were the stats relating to:

• Improved ADG (average daily gain): Maxammon: 1.81kg/Prograin: 1.67kg

• Better feed conversion Maxammon: 7.16/Prograin: 8.02

• Tighter distribution, fewer animals below target weight.

Maxammon group: only 2% didn’t achieve better than 1.2kg/day.

Prograin group: 12% were performing at less than 1.2kg/day.

• Improved scour count.

Maxammon group: only 3% had diarrhoea, prograin group: 18%.

• Higher proportion of better grades in the Maxammon groups.

The results

Feed component Prograin Maxammon

Kg feed/head/day 15.41 14.81

Average daily liveweight gain 1.66 1.81

Feed conversion rate 8.02 7.13

Average liveweight at 90 days 649 665

Count ADG ≤ 1.2 kg/day 12% 2%

Scour count 18% 3%