By Steven Turnbull

Davidsons Animal Feeds

They say so much can happen in a year, who would have thought... and no, I am not talking about Covid19 but rather the beef price!

In April 2020, 6-12-month-old steers were selling at £884.46 through the livestock markets compared to April 2021, when stores were averaging £1067.46 per head which equates to an extra £183, according to figures from AHDB.

With beef prices soaring to these record highs after several poor years you would be forgiven for being a little less focused on the fine margins on the farms that produce these cattle.

However, these margins are important now more than ever as global feed prices have soared over last 12 months also.

It is imperative to ensure that stock is maximising their genetic growth potential, but how do we ensure this is happening?

Firstly the forage being fed should be analysed to find out exactly what you have and more importantly what is missing in animals' diet. Rations need to be balanced to achieve optimum rumen balance which in turn will maximise performance.

When purchasing bought in concentrates to complement forage, you need to know exactly what is being offered and what that nut or blend contains.

A study found that less than 8% of beef farmers actually take note of the ration being sold to them. Too farmers are taken in by buzz words or additives, but are these so called ‘additives’ really going to push stock to their full potential if the raw material base is of poor quality?

In a concentrate, the basic materials can make up of more than 95% of the feed, with the rest being minerals, vitamins and additives. So surely focusing on getting this larger proportion right should be more important and will have a bigger impact on the animal than looking at the small inclusion of


For example, a ration with the inclusion of oatfeed (very low feed value) and urea (Contains no DUP or energy) will not perform as well as a diet with the inclusion of maize and soya. With current feed prices we are finding, more of these lesser quality, cheaper materials are being included in large quantities in some formulations. An additive does not make up for the short fall in the quality of the product – a ration containing top quality raw materials or honest nutrition in a formulation will always out perform a ration containing less desirable raw materials.

Far too often on farm it comes down to price per tonne. Demonstrated in the table below, a formulation that is £20 cheaper can lose huge amounts of money in lost performance. By feeding a high energy compound with top raw materials, we can increase daily live weight gains (DLWG) by more than 0.4kg or 40% increase in DLWG (Table 1). Over a period of 180 days this can be equivalent to an extra 72kg of live weight. If we take the current market, an extra 72kg can result in an additional £158.40 per calf.

From the extra value at market and subtract the extra cost of feeding the higher specification (£36.00 over 180 days), it would mean almost £122.40 in profit. Multiplying this by 100 calves sold off the unit, it can result in outstanding profits of almost £12,240. Calves will also be away quicker so additional savings on other inputs can be made.

We only sell these calves once so we need to ensure we are getting the most in monetary terms out of them. With beef prices per kg at an all time high, we should be aiming for extra live weight gain, as at the end of the day weight is paying.