‘Cereals are the backbone of good rations’ – But should farmers use more?

Cereals are the backbone of a good ration and are an excellent source of starch in cattle diets, according to Teagasc’s Aidan Murray.

The Teagasc Beef Specialist said that cereal grains, such as wheat, barley and oats can make up between 30-50% of the total ingredients used in rations.

“With good management, you can go higher,” he said.

Already this year, there have been indications that cereal prices will be down considerably on last year, with some farmers being offered prices as low as €116/t for green barley.

And due to the lower prices, some cattle farmers may see home mixing as a viable alternative.

But, Murray said there are number of considerations farmers need to make before going down this route.

According to Teagasc research, the feed usage on farm must be large enough to justify the additional labour and costs associated with home mixing.

“We would be encouraging the larger finished to use more rations as they will see a return,” he said.

It shows that investments in storage facilities can cost anything from €10-40/t of concentrate used and this may not be cost effective on some farms.

Murray also said that home mixing may only suit farmers who can access both the grain and machinery required to treat the grain locally.

“If you don’t have somebody local, it is not an option,” he said.

If the moisture content of the grain is above 18%, he said, farmers should consider treating the grain with propionic acid (propcorn) or drying to a suitable moisture level before storing for winter feed use.

Getting grain at the correct moisture is very difficult.

He continued to say that home mixing may be a viable option some for farmers, particularly the ones who have the wherewithal to understand the costs and the process of formulating diets.

However, he said the process of formulating and mixing home rations may take up extra time and labour that may be used in other areas of the farm to make improvements.

Another area that needs consideration is the inclusion of minerals in home-made mixes or rations, he said, as farmers who wish to add minerals to home-made rations must be first be licensed by the Department of Agriculture to do so.

Murray also said that storage facilities are extremely important and grain stores should be rodent free.