Ad-Lib Meal Feeding

Economics of Ad-lib concentrate feeding

The economics of ad-lib feeding versus silage plus concentrates finishing systems is dependent on the quality of the silage and concentrates, the cost of silage and concentrates and the performance level of the animals. The bar chart below gives an example of the comparable costs for continental steers.

 

There are a range of other alternative feedstuffs that may offer better value than silage e.g. maize silage, wholecrop cereals and beet.  However, it is important to remember to allocate all costs to the systems including handling and feed-out losses.  In reality there will be large variances in the actual costs involved from farm to farm.

Key point: Ad-lib concentrate finishing is likely to be more cost effective than silage + concentrates where genetic potential for average daily gain is high and/or where the roughage source quality is average or below average.

Targets
The target live-weight gains per head per day for different classes of animals are outlined in the table below:

The best response to ad-lib feeding is where this strategy is restricted; the chart below outlines the maximum length of the finishing period for different classes of animals. Therefore animals should only be put on this system if they can achieve the target slaughter weight within this time period.

Key point: Know your target slaughter weight and only start the high concentrate feeding period if this target can be reached before a fall-off in performance
 

Feeding recommendations
Introduce high concentrate diets gradually to reduce the chances of digestive upsets. Start with 3 Kg per head per day.  Increase by 1.5Kg every four days.  Feed no more than 3Kg in any one feed until you are feeding in excess of 9kg.  Make sure animals have full access to a roughage source (preferably straw) during this introductory period.  This programme is summarised in the table below. Watch animals closely during this introductory period decreasing feeding levels if there are signs of digestive upsets and culling problem animals.

Other important notes when ad-lib feeding:
• Never allow troughs to go empty as animals can gorge themselves with concentrate when they are then refilled.  A good tip is to mix the remaining concentrate in the trough with the fresh concentrate to minimise waste.
• Ensure enough clean, fresh water is available at all times.
• Remember non-feed issues such as animal health and allow enough housing space per animal.

Key point: Introduce concentrates gradually and watch animals carefully during this introductory period to minimise digestive upsets.

Concentrate type
A high energy (minimum 0.92 UFV/Kg as fed) concentrate is essential for finishing cattle on ad-lib meals, ideally a coarse ration with a protein content of 12-14%, with a reduced rate of vitamins & minerals to account for the lower feeding rate.  The inclusion of a buffer or yeast is desirable but is not a substitute for good management.

Prime Elite Maize Munch is ideal as it is high energy, contains a significant proportion of more slowly digestible starch (through its 25% maize meal content), is 14% protein, contains yeast and plus mineral levels are matched for ab-lib feeding. 

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