High protein prices are putting beef margins under strain but cost-effective alternatives which could reduce monthly feed costs by around £420 for a 200 head beef unit, are available, according to a leading nutritionist.

“Frequently provided in the form of rapeseed meal, protein is a critical inclusion in beef rations, as it plays a key role in muscle development and live weight gain,” pointed out Bethany May, Trident Feeds' ruminant specialist.

“It’s generally one of the most expensive components in the diet and, at current prices, producers should consider switching to a more cost-effective protein source to help reduce feed costs.

“Wheat distillery liquid feeds, such as Proflo, are a good option and they can be included in any beef grower or finisher ration. Replacing 1.5kg/day of standard rape-meal with 3kg/day of Proflo could reduce total ration costs by up to 7p/head/day, or £14/day across 200 cows, while maintaining a potential daily liveweight gain (DLWG) of 1.4kg/day, and supplying the same amount of protein on a dry matter (DM) basis,” argued Miss May.

She noted that when considering another protein supply, it is important to maintain high levels of crude protein (CP), to ensure productivity isn’t compromised, as shown in a recent trial at Harper Adams University.

“The trial looked at the effect of feeding higher levels of CP in continental cross dairy bull beef rations. When levels were increased from 12% to 14%, DLWG was improved, which reduced slaughter age by five days, improving margin over feed costs by more than £30 a head,” she explained.

“Proflo offers 40% CP (DM basis), so is a cost-effective and a high-quality protein alternative. There are also additional non-nutritional benefits that can be found through feeding a wheat distillery syrup.

“This feed source contains high levels of yeast fragments left over from the fermentation process, which have been shown to have beneficial effects on rumen acid production and microbial protein yield. Both factors are linked to improved rumen health, feed conversion efficiency and production.

“As they are fed in liquid form, distillery syrups also improve feed intakes through masking less palatable feeds and reducing the chances of ingredient sorting,” she said.

With high protein feed prices unlikely to come down any time soon, making more efficient use of better value feeds is key to maintaining margins, she added.