By Laura Wight and Lorna Shaw, technical feed advisors at Davidsons Animal Feeds

This past summer has presented many challenges for the Scottish beef industry with finished values falling an an almost weekly basis.

According to AHDB, prime cattle prices are around 10% lower than this time last year causing farmers to rethink their ration and maximise efficiencies when finishing beef cattle. By optimising the ration and pushing daily liveweight gain (DLWG) to finish cattle quicker we can therefore, reduce total farm inputs such as labour, bedding and feed cost.

When promoting DLWG when feeding finishing and store cattle, it is important the ration provides high energy throughout, while lowering protein level as the cattle are growing. This ensures optimal frame and finish.

With forage plentiful this year many farmers are looking to optimise silage use. However, silage results have been variable on quality this year with many being low in energy depending on cutting date and weather. For an efficient diet its best to get your silage analysed to ensure a well balanced ration. By maximising lwg using a well-balanced ration, cost to gain a kg can be reduced significantly.

Table 1: Cost to gain 1kg feeding 40% forage and 60% concentrate in the ration.

40:60 Forage/concentrate 300kg 400kg 500kg 600kg

Silage intake (kg FW) 8.8 11.7 14.7 17.6

Concentrate Intake (kg (FW) 4.5 6 7.5 9

Predicted DLWG 1.10 1.30 1.25 1.20

Cost to gain 1kg £1.05 £1.18 £1.54 £1.92

Table 2: Cost to gain 1kg feeding 60% forage and 40% concentrate in the ration.

60:40 Forage/concentrate 300kg 400kg 500kg 600kg

Silage intake (kg FW) 13.2 17.6 22 26.4

Concentrate (kg FW) 3 4 5 6

Predicted DLWG 0.85 1.05 1 0.95

Cost to gain 1kg £1.12 £1.21 £1.59 £2.01

Table 1 is looking at feeding 40% forage and 60% concentrate on a dry matter basis and Table 2 the opposite, 60% forage and 40% concentrate. Both tables where formulated using average quality silage and a 16% 12.5 ME cake. The two tables demonstrate that by increasing concentrate we can maximise dlwg while also reducing costs to the farm.

Increasing the energy and quality of a cake is shown to further promote efficiency through improved rumen function and feed to gain ratio. High quality raw materials such as maize will provide bypass starch and a blend of high-quality protein will also provide an essential source of bypass protein to the diet resulting in better rumen efficiency ensuring the animal makes best use of the concentrate provided.

By feeding a high ME cake with top ingredients we can increase lwg by more than 0.1 kg a day. Over a period of 180 days this can be equivalent to an extra 18kg of lwg. Taking the current market, an extra 18kg can result in an additional £41.40 per calf meaning almost £4140 in extra profit for 100 calves off the farm. Calves will also be away quicker so additional savings on other inputs can be made.

Some 0.1kg/day may not sound like a large gain but as you can see, small margins can lead to huge gains\profit over the course of time.

Table 3: Financial impact of increased ME in the ration increasing daily liveweight gain.

ME Protein DLWG Extra LWG per winter @ 180 days Value of extra gain per calf

@ 2ppkg Extra value per 100 calves


16 0.92 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (Control)


16 0.94 3.6 kg £7.20 £720


16 1.01 16.2 kg £32.40 £3240


16 1.05 23.4 kg £46.80 £4680


18 1.08 29 kg £58.00 £5800

It is tempting to keep stores longer by feeding them less however, the older they get the less efficient the animal becomes at converting feed to weight gain. This can mean much larger input costs over the lifetime of the animal on farm. With prices struggling this is an important time to make sure every aspect of the farm is as efficient as possible.