Dietary fats can improve finish despite poor forage

In many parts of the country a shortage of forage combined with poor forage quality is impacting on how quickly and how well cattle are finishing. According to Mike Chown of UFAC UK, increasing the proportion of rumen-inert fats in the diets of finishing cattle will help offset poor forage and have a significant impact on growth rates and carcase finish.

“In the latter finishing stages, it is essential to increase the energy density of the diet to allow high growth rates to be maintained from larger animals. In most cases this is achieved by increasing the proportion of starches and sugars.

“With poor forage and a lack of feeding options in many parts of the country, farmers have had to resort to increased supplementation but are struggling to get cattle to finish on high starch diets. At the same time, with higher starch diets there is an increased risk of acidosis which will reduce dry matter intakes and reduce growth rates.”

Mr Chown says EBLEX recommend a maximum 3% fat content in the diets for rearing cattle, this recommendation is increased to a maximum of 6% in the diets of finishing animals. He believes there are good reasons why farmers should consider increasing the inclusion rate of a balanced rumen inert fat this winter.

The first is that fats are higher energy than any other feed ingredient for beef diets, with over two and a half times the net energy content of cereals. Consequently they can increase energy density and, being rumen inert with no acid loading they support higher total energy and dry matter intakes.

The target energy density for rearing animals is 10.5-11.4MJ/kgDM, while for finishers it should be in excess of 12.2MJ/kgDM. Mega Beef can ensure these levels are achieved in a rumen friendly manner.

“It is important that fats fed are rumen –inert and balanced because this maximises the energy available to the animal. It also ensures optimum rumen function.

“Rumen – inert fats are utilised in the small intestine.  If the fats fed contain C18:1 Oleic acid, this increases the efficiency of digestion of the whole diet in the small intestine, increasing overall feed efficiency, making best use of forage and supporting higher feed conversion.”

Mr Chown says the other benefit is that increasing the levels of dietary fat will increase the level of finish. While there is less demand for marbling, processor still require a level of sub-cutaneous fat.

“Feeding a higher level of dietary fat will lead to a better level of finish which combined with faster growth rates can have significant financial benefits with a higher finished animal and reduced days to slaughter.”

He suggests one option is to replace a portion of the cereals in the diet with a supplement containing a balanced blend of rumen-inert fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, plus EPA and DHA from marine along with Oleic acid, to maximise feed conversion and energy supply. Mega Beef meets this criteria.

“In a finishing diet, for a 500kg animal, 500g of cereals would be replaced with 500g of fat supplement.  The impact on cost would be around 23p/day, assuming cereals are costed at £130/tonne.

“For a 90 day finishing period, the additional cost would be around £20/animal but this will soon be recovered by reduced days to slaughter, better feed conversion and improved carcase grade. With seven days less to slaughter and a 5p/kg lift in price received due to better grading’s, which are both realistic expectations, the increased income will be around £30 for a 340kg animal, giving a 50% return on investment,” Mr Chown explains.







For further information relating to this article please contact our technical department on 01780460327 or