Previous studies at Reading University, conjoint with Bristol University, supported by MAFF, MLC, UK agribusiness and a major supermarket, have unequivocally demonstrated the nutritional superiority of maize silage compared with grass silage in the diet of finishing beef cattle, leading to improved financial margins with only small changes in carcass quality. Extensive communication of these data to the UK agricultural industry has generated considerable interest from beef producers.
The current project aims to extend these findings to examine the role of maize silage and other home grown feeds in beef cattle rations during both the rearing and finishing phases for bulls, steers and heifers, using beef [Simmental] cross calves obtained from Holstein/Friesian dairy cows. Different nutritional regimes will be examined according to gender along with different target slaughter weights, the emphasis being to optimise the financial margins of those systems producing beef from the dairy herd [ie beef cross calves]. Specific attention will be given to optimising the use of home grown feeds, maximising the rate of carcass gain, establishing the effects of previous nutrition, controlling the level of fat deposition and optimising carcass and meat quality, particularly beef flavour and n-3 fatty acid content. Data from this and the previous study will be subjected to full financial analysis and the results used to develop management systems that will guarantee quality products, suitable for gaining market premiums, whilst providing the best financial return to beef producers.