With winter forage in short supply on many beef units following the dry summer, making the most of the feeds available is critical.
Figure 1 – Improvement in beef daily gain following addition of VistaPre-T
According to Dr Derek McIlmoyle, AB Vista’s EMEA technical director, the key to minimising feed costs and maximising margins will be to extract as much growth as possible from the fibre in the diet.
“Recent research carried out at Agri-Research Center in Texas has shown that improving fibre digestion in beef rations can increase average daily gain (ADG) by up to 13.4% in the initial phase (see Figure 1) without any increase in dry matter intake (DMI),” he states. “As a result, cattle finished 11 kg heavier at slaughter without consuming any additional feed.”
The results were achieved by using the pre-treatment VistaPre-T (a fermentation extract-based liquid added to the ration prior to feeding), which improves the rate and extent of fibre digestion in the rumen. This not only increases energy supply, but also provides a better balance of energy release that helps reduce acidosis.
“Fibre is an extremely important energy source in ruminant diets, as well as being vital for correct rumen function,” Dr McIlmoyle explains. “Feeds high in fibre like silage and moist feeds are also some of the most cost-effective sources of energy available, so it makes sense to utilise them as efficiently as possible.”
Maximising fibre digestibility
Improving fibre digestion therefore needs to be a top priority for all beef producers this winter, and is determined by two key factors: the potential maximum digestibility of the fibre, and how well the rumen is functioning.
“Anything that compromises the rumen is going to limit fibre digestibility and energy supply, regardless of how much available energy the fibre might potentially contain,” Dr McIlmoyle explains.
“For example, low rumen pH (acidosis) caused by acidic silages or too much unbalanced starch in the ration will reduce the populations of fibre digesting microbes. This slows the rate of fibre breakdown, cutting the amount of fibre digested before it leaves the rumen.”
Similar effects can be seen when excess oil in the diet coats the fibre, delaying microbial attachment and colonisation, or when increased rumen outflow rates following addition of sodium bicarbonate limits the time available for digestion.
VistaPre-T digestion advantage
“Until recently, the only practical way to increase fibre digestibility was to improve rumen function,” Dr McIlmoyle continues. “This typically involved better ration formulation to balance energy supply in the rumen and minimise acidosis, plus the addition of a slow-release rumen conditioner like Acid Buf or Vistacell live yeast to help optimise rumen conditions for fibre-digesting microbes.”
Figure 2 – VistaPre-T increases digestibility to release even more energy from fibre
However, the introduction of VistaPre-T offers an additional opportunity, thanks to its ability to unlock and release even more of the energy potential in fibre (see Figure 2).
“By reducing the lag time before fibre digestion starts in the rumen, VistaPre-T increases both the rate and extent of fibre digestion in a way that’s not been possible before. The result is even more energy extracted from the fibre in the diet, and an overall increase in feed efficiency of up to 10% or more.
“This enables either faster growth and quicker finishing on existing rations, or a reduction in the level of expensive high energy concentrates needed to hit growth targets,” Dr McIlmoyle adds.
Improved energy release
Simply applied as a liquid prior to feeding, VistaPre-T roughens and creates pits in the surface of the fibre in the diet. This increases the surface area for attachment and colonisation by fibre-digesting microbes once in the rumen.
“This pre-digestion allows faster digestion of feed,” states Dr McIlmoyle. “And with trials showing improvements in growth rate of up to 13.4% in the initial phase without any additional feed, it highlights just how much extra potential energy is available within the ration fibre if we can improve its digestion.
“VistaPre-T really does offer the opportunity to get more growth from the same feed, and the benefits in terms of improved energy supply to the cattle, increased margins and better overall profitability can be substantial.“
Read more about VistaPre-T