With various articles in the press, beef finishers may feel tempted to consider using a mixer wagon and feeding by-products. Some of these products can appear cheap, but what’s the real cost and do they do the job? Also, if the mixer wagon TMR based on ingredients such as cereals, maize silage, potatoes, fodder beet can work well as it’s possible to get the starch level high enough provided a protein is included. However, diets fed through a mixer wagon using by-product ingredients can often be incorrectly formulated with protein and starch level often inadequate. This results in cattle not optimizing their growth rates and entering the abattoir in poor states of finish.

In addition, TMR diets require the input of a nutritionist to ensure cattle are achieving their potential. For example, brewers’ grains, chips and biscuit meal have upper inclusion limits due to their oil content. A little oil is helpful as it provides energy, but too much oil in the rumen coats the rumen bugs and consequently reduces dry matter intake. Great care must be taken with storing these products as there can be deterioration during storage can lead to toxic products or contamination from wild birds resulting in health issues such as listeria. Also, some degree of assurance on the continuity of supply from the feed merchant is needed so that diets don’t have to change in the middle of the finishing period.

There is evidence that concentrate based diets can have a beneficial effect on beef tenderness. Animals that grow faster have higher protein turnover rates; this can lead to increased tenderness. Furthermore increasing pre-slaughter plane of nutrition results in increased levels of carcass fat at slaughter. Increasing pre-slaughter plane of nutrition can also raise intramuscular fat concentration.

The most profitable diets are those that achieve weight gain as quickly and efficiently as possible. Cereals remain the most efficient, staple ingredient of beef finishing diets. Getting the correct levels of energy, particularly starch into beef finishing diets along with the right protein level and vitamin & mineral package is paramount in formulating beef finishing rations.
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