Northumberland farm hosts open day on cattle nutrition

The event, held at Snipe House near Alnwick included presentations by the Beef Improvement Group (BIG), Keenan and the Scottish Agricultural College

Some of the 800 Stabiliser beef cattle kept by Robert Robinson
Some of the 800 Stabiliser beef cattle kept by Robert Robinson

More than 90 visitors attended an open day at a Northumberland farm to enjoy tours and learn more about cattle nutrition with reference to a Stabiliser beef herd.

The event, held at Snipe House near Alnwick courtesy of farmer Robert Robinson, included presentations by the Beef Improvement Group (BIG), Keenan and the Scottish Agricultural College.

The 3,000-acre farm keeps 800 Stabiliser beef cattle and the enterprise is run on a structure system designed to maximise increases in weight gain from forage-based diets.

The Stabiliser Cattle Company was formed in 1996 to improve the economic efficiency of suckler cows with the aim of producing high-quality beef.

Robinson had previously kept Irish x Charolais cattle but started to trial Stabiliser bloodlines on heifers and was impressed with the results.

The Beef Improvement Group has since formed a ground-breaking supply chain partnership with Morrisons, in order to develop a more efficient and sustainable supply chain for Stabiliser fresh beef. The main driver is to improve eating quality and maintain consistent high standards.

The Snipe House Farm tour
The Snipe House Farm tour
 

Essential to producing top-quality beef is having the correct diet according to Denis Dreux, head nutritionist for Keenan UK.

He said: “Having a consistent ration delivered on a daily basis is an essential part of maintaining consistent growth and increases in weight gain.

“The end result is healthier cattle, producing top-quality tasting beef. The Keenan Mech-fibre system delivers the necessary day-to-day consistency that is essential across the whole herd.

“Keenan advanced technology helps slow down rumen function and allows cattle to finish earlier, due to the consistency of diet, and the resulting increases in feed efficiency. Cattle therefore have fewer nutritional and metabolic concerns, resulting in reduced vet bills.”

Dreux, formerly Keenan head nutritionist in France for 16 years, provided a demonstration on the benefits of slowing down rumen function by introducing short-length chopped straw fibre from the Mech-fibre system into the ration.

“Rumen ph function in the cow is stable for longer and therefore increases efficiency levels,” he concluded.

Dr Jimmy Hyslop, Scottish Agricultural College beef specialist, has been recording Stabiliser net feed efficiency data as part of a five-year scientific study. The long-term aim of the trial is to identify the best available Stabiliser bloodlines in order to provide widespread genetic improvements within the population.

Denis Dreux (left) and Dr Jimmy Hyslop (right)
Denis Dreux (left) and Dr Jimmy Hyslop (right)
 

“Approximately 80-90% of nutrient use in suckler beef systems is used for maintenance, rather than growth,” Dr Hyslop explained.

“Therefore, efficiency measures in suckler beef animals should focus on efficiency of nutrient use for maintenance, as well as growth.

“Variations in feed efficiency between individual animals on the same finishing system can vary by as much as £20-£50 per head.

“Net feed efficiency is being measured in young breeding bulls and finishing steers over an eight to 12-week period.

“Three key areas that need to be accurately monitored are dry matter intake, daily live-weight gain and carcass fat depth.

“To date, four batches of Stabiliser breeding bulls numbering 200 animals, including five beef Shorthorns aged between 10 and 13 months, have gone through the system and 118 Stabiliser finishing steers, aged 15-19 months have also completed the project.”

The results of the ongoing study indicate same-size animals having the same daily live-weight gain and carcass fat depth.

Low net feed efficiency cattle ate 15% less feed and produced 15% less methane; had a 13% better feed conversion ratio and cost �24 per head less to feed over the 12-week period, compared to high net feed efficiency cattle.

 

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