Homegrown cereal stocks are running low
In the midst of the busy pre-Christmas period, it is important to remember farm safety despite the added stress that many beef farmers are under. Increased workload, poor prices, reduced daylight and family duties can all distract attention at this time of year.
Last week, I saw a novel idea from Quinns of Baltinglass to help raise funds for the Jack & Jill Children's foundation.
Their tub of 'Magic Reindeer Food' comprises a special blend of grains and seeds - all the feeds that reindeers love!
This magical feed helps Rudolph's nose glow even brighter and guide Santa's sleigh around the world.
It got me thinking as to what feeds should be included in a magical blend to enhance performance in beef cattle this winter.
This week is traditionally one of the busiest in feed mills and merchants throughout the country.
On all farms, the necessary feed stocks are required to last the duration of the holiday period.
Over the past number of weeks, I have noted that the available stocks of homegrown cereal grains are running tight.
This has occurred earlier than usual on many farms and is a result of the lower yields experienced at harvest time.
Stretching and replacing these stocks is something that I have been focusing on with a number of my clients.
Maize grain is one of the main feed ingredients being used in this regard. We are in the fortunate position that maize grain represents excellent value for money - and the greater the level of maize inclusion, particularly in finishing diets, the lower the feed costs.
Whether these higher levels of maize inclusion will lead to increased performance is dependent on what other feeds are being fed and the form in which the grain is fed.
There are numerous options in which maize grain can be processed and fed, with the most common form being finely ground maize meal.
Inclusions of up to 40pc of the concentrate element of the diet can be achieved without the risk of any digestive upsets.
When maize grain levels exceed 40pc inclusion, careful consideration on the form of grain that is fed is necessary.
Toasting/flaking, alkaline treating and moist rolling will all allow for higher levels of feeding. Toasted or flaked maize is commonly used in pedigree blends and calf crunch mixes but it is a very competitive option this year.
Alkaline and moist acid treating are also popular this winter due to the ability to increase maize grain feed rates, while not affecting rumen health.
So for beef farmers looking to provide their cattle with a Christmas treat, maize grain will certainly keep them happy over the festive period.
Origin Green awards
It was my pleasure to attend the Origin Green Farmer Awards night. The awards covered of beef, dairy and horticulture and it was great to see farmers nominated from all corners of Ireland.
The awards recognise farm sustainability, efficiency, profitability and positive environmental impacts.
These factors represent a major selling point for Irish beef both domestically and in international markets. The 12 beef finalists were selected from almost 50,000 beef producers in Bord Bia's Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme.
Their carbon footprint figures were 20-30pc lower than average figures in their production systems.
There were four awards categories within the beef section: suckler to beef, suckler to weanling/store production, weanling/store to beef production system and dairy calf to beef production system.
The judges commented on how they were really impressed by all finalists.
The practices being adopted to improve efficiency and profitability included a special focus on producing quality forage, high levels of livestock performance, soil fertility, animal health and carcass quality.
It was encouraging to see some positivity in the beef sector after what has been a testing year.
Gerry Giggins is an animal nutritionist based in Co Louth
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