Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Beans to play greater role in diet

Conrad (11) and Beth McConnell (8) from Donegal resting against the family bull Macmann Bullagh Bos during the Tullamore National Livestock Show
Conrad (11) and Beth McConnell (8) from Donegal resting against the family bull Macmann Bullagh Bos during the Tullamore National Livestock Show

Gerry Giggins

The Tullamore show has come and gone. For me, the show marks the beginning of serious discussions regarding the winter feeding season.

I was particularly impressed with the beef livestock on display at this year's show, both commercial and pedigree. There was an air of cautious optimism among the beef farmers that I met, however the prices of stores remains a major concern.

Given the time of year, grain and feed prices are another hot topic for discussion around the show site. The double-edged sword of current low grain prices, while a negative for grain growers, is certainly a positive for livestock farmers.

The winter barley crop is now fully harvested and appears to be of excellent quality throughout the country. The broken weather created some difficulty in saving winter barley straw with a lot of straw chopped at harvest for incorporating back into the soil as organic matter.

If there were to be any difficulty in saving straw from the spring crops, supplies may be tight for the feeding sector.

For those budgeting for straw inclusion in their finishing rations, feed rates above 0.75kg/hd a day will create a number of negatives.

Intakes will also be reduced where straw exceeds this level in a forage based finishing ration. Whilst it is difficult to monitor straw intakes in ad-lib diets, most estimations are that 1.5kg/hd a day will be consumed by a mature animal.

For the spring calving suckler cow, straw should play an important role.

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Even where ample forage is available I would advocate that straw should supply 30pc of the total dry matter intake of a suckler cow during the dry period.

This can equate to between 300kg to 400kg per head over the duration of the dry period, or approximately two 4x4 round bales or one 8x4x3 square bale. Increasing the use of straw during the dry period will allow for the allocation of higher quality forage to youngstock, finishing cattle and freshly calved cows while they are housed.

One feed that is generating a lot of discussion at the moment is beans. The significant increase in the area of beans grown has led to discussion as to how best to process, store and utilise them.

Most of the feed trade are slowly coming to terms with how they will deal with the vast increase in tonnage that will be available. While beans will provide a proportion of energy and protein in most beef finisher/ weanling rations, to date they have never seemed to exceed an inclusion rate of 10pc to 15pc.

If available locally and where they can be processed and stored correctly, I would see them playing an important part in any beef ration.

As with cereal grains, the options of crimping, dry rolling, alkaline and acid treating are all highly effective.

A total mixed ration is where high inclusion rates of beans can be best utilised. In a lot of cases, beans will be a 'new' feed that beef farmers will experiment with this winter and if properly fed will provide the desired performance at reduced costs.

Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist based in Co Louth

Indo Farming