Soaring input costs coupled with enormous market uncertainty are leading many producers to maximize the amount of home-produced feed for raising and finishing livestock.
The same philosophy also applies to future-proof and net-zero oriented livestock businesses.
High feed costs mean that every kg fed to ruminants must now be accounted for and it is more important than ever to fully utilize inputs to ensure that production costs are kept at a reasonable and sustainable level for the future.
Sheep and cattle are ruminants and depend on rumen microbes to function. Take care of microbes and they can help reduce production costs, as a recent trip to Norway to see bull beef units where cattle were fed low-grain diets showed.
In these farms, the young bulls were finished at 15 months, reaching 380 kg carcass weight with high forage rations. The bulls were mainly Charolais and Simmental, although 30% were Aberdeen Angus crosses.
The Angus alone reached 320 kg carcass at 14 months to avoid heavy penalties (around €1.30/kg) for transporting too much fat.
These finishing times and carcass weights are nothing out of the ordinary. What is impressive is the low grain volume and minimal purchased feed needed to produce such carcasses.
The diet was simply 4-6 kg of Maxammon treated oats for Continental bulls and 3 kg for Angus, Beef Max Mineral with Rumitech and a dry matter intake of good quality grass silage .
Harbro’s Maxammon distributors in Norway are Erlend and Guri Røhnebæk from Gjølstad Gård. As well as supplying Maxammon and other inputs to farmers across Norway, Erlend and Guri finish 400 head of cattle beside the scenic Glomma River, about an hour northeast of Oslo. Their robust farming system is built on a sustainable, local philosophy, where little is wasted and their attention to detail is exceptional.
Their simple system is a stark reminder that finishing cattle isn’t just about shoveling as much grain as possible in front of them. Performance is boosted by optimizing rumen function and allowing ruminants to do what they do best – utilizing forage and converting inedible feed to human edible protein, cost-effective and sustainable way with maximum inclusion of locally grown forages and grains.
After all, ruminants are grazing animals, which would eat huge volumes of stalk fodder, in small amounts throughout the day when left to their own devices.
The beauty of Maxammon is not just the increased pH and protein that the treatment itself brings, but the exciting part is what happens inside the rumen. By stabilizing rumen pH and stimulating all of these important rumen microbes, an environment is created in which they can work extremely efficiently and generate more performance, more live weight gain, from the rest of the diet , including fodder.
Recent trials have shown that feeding a proportion of cereals treated with Maxammon as part of a well-balanced diet improves the total digestibility of the diet by around 5% and that less starch goes into the feces. This means that animals get more nutrients from their diet, which improves their performance.
Scientific trials are extremely important in guiding the industry and proving the concepts correct, although the exciting part is seeing the results in practice, on commercial farms.
The system observed in Norway relied on locally grown grass silage and cereals of good quality. Feeding a relatively low level of Maxammon-treated oats with high-quality grass silage has produced results that many ad-lib grain-based systems struggle to achieve.
It was noticeable how meticulous the farmers visited were and the attention to detail was striking. For example, all silage has been treated with an additive to reduce and in most cases eliminate waste.
The system seen in Norway is also feasible here in Scotland and many are already part of it. The latitude of Oslo corresponds to that of Shetland, which makes it possible to obtain fairly good quality silage.
As the fight for net zero continues, perhaps more emphasis should be placed on self-sufficiency, matching silage to the targeted stage of production, maximizing the use of whatever is fed to ruminants by investing in grain treatments to stimulate more rumen. work and have data to prove that the system is working.
Is it time to get back to basics, find out what makes the rumen work and make it work for you?