The coming months will see over 1.1 million beef-bred calves from the dairy herd hitting the ground around the country.

While there has been a decline in the national suckler herd, there has been an increase in the number of farmers seeing dairy calf-to-beef production as a viable option for their farms.

The Irish beef industry is facing unprecedented challenges at farm level. Diminishing profit margins and continuous scrutiny around the environmental efficiency of beef production mean that many farmers are seeking solutions to make their business viable.

The good news is that KEENAN, an Alltech company, can deliver on both fronts, improving both the environmental and economic sustainability of beef farms.

Improved feed conversion efficiency

Improving efficiency on beef farms all over the world has been at the core of KEENAN’s business for over 35 years.

Independent trials have consistently shown that the MechFiber mix produced by the KEENAN machine retains the optimum fibre structure to encourage rumination in beef cattle, which, in turn, delivers improved feed conversion efficiency.

This, coupled with InTouch feed management technology, allows for consistent animal feeding and the ability to monitor feed costs, which is a vital avenue to increasing profit margins in any beef system.

Data collected across UK beef farms has shown that the KEENAN system can improve the feed efficiency of beef units by 14% and reduce feed costs per kilogram of liveweight gain by 18%, which all, in turn, delivers a significant increase in profit margin per animal.

Along with this, KEENAN remains the only maker of diet feeder to be validated by the Carbon Trust. The unique Mech Fiber mix and improved feed conversion efficiency delivered by the KEENAN machine along with the KEENAN controller has been proven to reduce methane emissions on-farm, helping lower the carbon footprint.

It is for the above reasons that KEENAN diet feeders remain the machine of choice on beef units of all sizes, the world over.

KEENAN remains the only maker of diet feeder to be validated by the Carbon Trust, proven to reduce methane emissions on-farm

Calf-to-beef programme

Through the on-farm presence of InTouch feeding specialists, KEENAN knows the challenges that farmers operating calf-to-beef systems face. The company is inviting beef farmers to get in touch to learn more about the KEENAN calf-to-beef programme.

As well as focusing on quality grassland management and maximising “gain from grass”, the programme targets three key areas:

1. Calf performance in Year 1 (pre- and post-weaning)

The inclusion of KEENAN Mech Fiber in the diet of the young animal, pre- and post-weaning, optimises rumen development and also alleviates the risk of summer scour, a common problem in calves when transitioning to full-time grazing.

2. Growth during the housed period

Ensuring optimum animal performance in the housed period of its first winter.

Specific diet formulations for animals at each growing stage are vital to correct frame growth over the winter period. This results in a better grown animal leaving the shed the following spring, facilitating greater gain from grass and reduced days to slaughter.

3. Shorter and sharper finish

The consistent MechFiber mix from the KEENAN diet feeder allows for a smooth transition to the finishing diet, maximising animal performance while reducing feed costs and overall days to slaughter.

KEENAN a perfect fit in Co. Cork calf-to-beef system

Jerome Kelleher farms outside Enniskeane, Co. Cork, and runs a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise, purchasing approximately 300–350 beef calves from dairy herds.

The Kelleher farm was run as a dairy enterprise once upon a time. Jerome’s father milked cows on the holding, but the decision was made to exit dairying 20 years ago in 2000.

Jerome Kelleher

At the time, quotas were still in place and restricting any expansion for the family. Along with this, Jerome wanted flexibility in his farming system. He felt going down the dry stock route would provide this and allow him to keep his full-time job off-farm, working for Musgraves.

Jerome focuses on getting the basics right and keeping his system as streamlined as possible. He is aware of the stress and arising health challenges that calves can be predisposed to when moving and mixing at a young age.

“I buy all my calves farm-to-farm,” Jerome explains. “I have the same farmers each year, and I know what I’m getting. I have about 70 calves bought already this year. I buy autumn calves, and I buy spring.”

Jerome likes to keep his system flexible and his system type is often influenced by how he sees the market going.

“I buy Friesian, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford-cross calves. I do them as heifers, bulls or bullocks. Whatever suits the market at the time.”

Juggling off-farm employment and farming means Jerome is extremely focused on time management and making the farm as efficient as possible. He decided to invest in an automatic calf feeder several years ago and has seen huge benefits from this.

“I can feed 90 calves at a time. My calves are being fed all the time while I’m working.”

As well as saving time and labour, he is aware that accuracy and consistency in feeding calves are of utmost importance to correct performance.

Jerome has been a KEENAN customer for over 15 years. He currently operates a KEENAN MechFiber320 with a KEENAN controller to facilitate InTouch technology.

“I have this one three years; it’s a 320. I had a KEENAN [Klassik] 100 for 10 or 11 years before that.”

All groups of animals on Jerome’s farm, from calves to fattening cattle, are fed through the KEENAN.

“Everything would be fed through the feeder,” Jerome says. “I’d have a few different diets on the controller all the time. I use different diets depending on what is working out the best each year. This year, now, we’re going with one-third maize, one-third distillers and one-third rapeseed meal, along with silage and straw.”

Jerome finds that this system suits him best from both a time management and an animal performance point of view. The KEENAN controller with InTouch provides control for him.

“You know exactly how much to put in,” Jerome explains about the controller. “It tells you as well when the mix is finished. My diet feeder is on an older-type tractor. It’s on it all the time; it never comes off it for 10 months of the year.”

Correct calf nutrition pre- and post-weaning, when transitioning to grass, is critical for setting the animal on the correct path for future performance.

The inclusion of fibre in the calf mix delivered through the KEENAN promotes optimum rumen development and also helps to alleviate the risk of summer scour syndrome, a common problem seen in calves when transitioning from indoors to pasture.

Jerome has seen the benefits of feeding a consistent total mixed ration (TMR) to his young calves.

“We do a calf mix through the feeder,” Jerome says. “It’s a great job for me because my calves are fed in one go. I know each calf is getting the exact same ration all day. They’re not getting a glut of ration morning and evening; they’re getting it throughout the day.”

Calves with ad-lib access to KEENAN Mech Fiber calf mix

While Jerome recognises that top-quality grassland management during the grazing season is key to driving profits in calf-to-beef systems, he is equally focused on achieving cost-effective growth during the housed period.

“You need them performing inside and outside,” Jerome adds.

Jerome slaughters his cattle at around 20–22 months-of-age achieving carcase weights of typically 280–320kg. Central to driving profit in this system is the strategic use of his KEENAN diet feeder and InTouch nutrition support.

“You definitely finish cattle quicker; they’re not on the farm as long.

“Your cattle are happier. They’re not all coming racing up to the barrier together. When I go out in the morning, all the cattle are lying down, chewing the cud.”

Further information

For more information and to learn how KEENAN can benefit your calf-to-beef system, please click here