Study finds beef producers could learn from dairy farming practices

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Beef producers have been told they could improve herd nutrition and calving performance by taking a leaf out of dairy farmers book and adopting metabolic profile (MP) testing.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted in Angus and Fife by SAC Consulting which found that MP testing can highlight nutritional issues in the cows which could affect calving performance, milk production and fertility.

It could also pick up on management issues such as inadequate feed space.

MP has not been widely adopted by suckler producers but it is commonly used in dairy herds to determine the nutritional status of pre-calving and early lactation cows.

The 12-month study funded by the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer Innovation Fund (KTIF) body scored and  tested 180 cows across 12 farms at around a month before calving and one month after calving to assess their nutritional status.

The study found that a third of cows were deficient in magnesium pre-calving and  a quarter of cows were deficient in the mineral post-calving.  A lack of magnesium can have an impact slow calvings, and cows which are low in magnesium can be at greater risk of grass staggers.

SAC Consulting nutritionist Karen Stewart said that while in some cases  the ration looked ideal on paper and was based on silage analysis, issues such as feed access, weather and other environmental factors impacted on the animal’s nutritional status:

“Another finding was that over half the cows were short of rumen-available protein in the ration pre-calving which, if left uncorrected, may impact colostrum quality and milk production,” she added.

“The study also highlighted energy deficiencies and, with corrective action, helped to safeguard calving performance and getting cows back in calf.”

She said that trace elements and other major minerals, except magnesium, were not deficient and cows were generally well supplemented.

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