Beef Animal Nutritional Requirements-The Basics

Energy is the most important factor when looking at beef diets as ultimately it drives performance.  Unfortunately there is no recognised analysis method for measuring energy which results in compound feeds not declaring an energy level on their labels.  This is why price is not always a good indicator of value of feeds e.g. It costs less per Kg of liveweight gain to feed a 500Kg Freisian bull Ration 1 instead of Ration 2 below despite similar intakes (1Kg straw plus 10Kg ration), the same protein level and Ration 1 costing €30 per ton more!  This is due to the higher energy level (UFV) and subsequently better average daily gain with Ration 1.

Ration 1 Ration 2
CP    14% CP    14%
Cost €265

Cost €235

UFV  0.93 UFV  0.83
ADG  1.35Kg ADG  1.15Kg
Cost per Kg gain €1.96 Cost per Kg gain €2.04

Protein quality (Soya good quality base in this regard) should also be considered when comparing levels of protein but this is less important with finishing animals.

Crude protein requirements for different classes of Beef Animals expressed as a percentage of the total dietary dry matter intake:
 Dry Cow 12%
 Calved Cows 14%
 Weanlings 14%
 Finishing Steers & Heifers 12%
 Growing Bulls 14%
 Finishing Bulls 12%

Minerals & Vitamins
Correct vitamin, mineral and trace element balance is essential for the prevention of a wide range of problems including lameness, ill thrift, reduced immunity, poor skin/hair quality and reduced live-weight gain (while not essential for finishing animals, lack of supplementation can result in reduced performance).  Forage Analysis has shown that most Irish soils are deficient in the key trace elements Selenium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.  These trace elements have major roles in animal performance and fertility.

Fixed rate feeding (e.g. in the daily concentrate allowance or sprinkled over easy feed silage) of well balanced minerals is the cheapest and best way to guarantee an adequate mineral supply.  Free access supplementation (e.g. mineral buckets and licks) is not as reliable as fixed rate feeding as there is variation in intake between animals.  Fixed-rate feeding may not be possible in certain situations e.g. grazing cattle and free access minerals may then be the only option.

Other Requirements
It is important to ensure there is enough crude fibre, particularly long fibre in beef diets and not to have too much starch and sugar in diets.  These parameters can be stretched with the inclusion of yeast or buffers in diets but good management is essential in these cases.

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