With cattle now housed for the winter period, and finishing in full swing across the country, farmers should ensure that their animals are on the correct diet.

Farmers buying winter feed need to look out for a number of ingredients and nutritive values. The single most important determinant of live weight gain in finishing cattle is energy.

However, this is an expensive time of the year on beef finishing enterprises and farmers should also ensure that they are getting value for money.

Beef animals need to be fed an energy-dense diet to ensure that they meet factory specifications. By feeding the correct ration, animals add meat to their frame and optimise fat cover prior to slaughter.

Providing the correct ration is not only vital for ensuring the animal reaches correct growth targets, but it also plays an important role in keeping feeding costs to a minimum.

Rations can be expensive and animals on an intense-feeding regime need to be fed efficiently. This will result in the animal being finished quicker.

Also Read: Ration selection: Are your finishing cattle on the correct diet?

In the table below, each ‘straight’ ingredient is compared to the best two sources of energy and protein – barley and soya bean meal.

It also indicates the current price being paid for these ingredients and whether or not they are better value than purchasing either barley or soya bean meal. According to Teagasc, barley can be purchased at €190/t, while wheat prices currently stand at €200/t.

Soya bean meal is currently sitting at €355/t and maize distillers is trading at €200/t.

According to Teagasc, this year, maize distillers is good value and can be purchased with barley and soya to feed a simple three-way mix.


Source: Teagasc

The difficult weather conditions over the summer period have left many farmers facing a severe fodder shortage, due to cattle being housed earlier.

In some cases – where farmers have to stretch fodder – feeding a three-way mix or a single straight will be the solution to extending fodder over the winter period.