Any compound feed is best defined by its energy, protein, mineral and fibre content. Is there a difference between concentrate types, eg standard beef mixes, 'specials' (ie, ingredient-content specified) and home-mixed concentrates?
The nutrient content of the compound feed is more critical than the individual ingredients in it, provided low quality ingredients are not included at high levels.
Typically, concentrate feeds in this country are bought solely on the basis of crude protein content, which is incorrect unless a protein balancer is required.
Energy is the most limiting nutrient when finishing cattle or milking cows. If cows are not milking as well as they should be or milk protein is low or finishing cattle are not performing, energy, not protein, is the first nutrient that should be checked. That means checking total energy intake from forage and concentrate.
Always ask for the energy content -- expressed as UFV for finishing cattle and UFL for suckler or milking cows -- of the ration.
There is no requirement to print this information on the label of compound feeds but, on request, this information is being made available to farmers. It's up to you to look for this information.
The target energy density of concentrate mixes should be 0.94+ UFV/kg as fed for finishing cattle or 0.94 UFL for milking cows over the winter.
It is important to specify the basis on which these nutrients are defined by your feed supplier, ie fresh weight or dry matter (DM) basis.
Energy (UFV) expressed on a dry matter is considerably higher but can be misleading. For example, a beef ration with a UFV of 1.07/kg DM is actually 0.93 UFV/kg as fed. A ration with a UFV of 0.93 has an energy value of 93pc of the value of barley.
• Raw material prices are inflated right now and it is difficult to predict the future. Shop around -- there is a lot of variation in concentrate ingredient prices this year.
• If raw materials are traditionally bought for home mixing, consider the cost of buying straights in comparison to buying a standard mix or a special. This will take some effort in getting prices and doing a few calculations with the help of your adviser.
• Request nutritional information. As of September 1, a buyer of feed is entitled to request information on the quantitative composition of the feed within a range of +/- 15pc of the value, according to the feed formulation. For example, if citrus pulp is included at 20pc in the compound feed, you will be told that citrus pulp is included at 18-23pc of the compound feed. It's a useful guide.
• In shopping around, always ensure that you are comparing like for like. Additional costs/ savings including bulk buying, tipping versus blowing, credit terms, coarse versus pellet -- and transport costs should not be ignored. If concentrate feeds can be bought for cash this year, there is potential to save money. Buying compound feeds ex-yard may seem cheaper but there is a cost attached to your time and the wear and tear on the tractor and trailer collecting the feed.