New survey finds beef and dairy producers rank animal health as top care factor

According to a new survey, UK beef and dairy producers prioritize animal health as the number one care factor on their farms, ahead of milk and beef prices.

With milk and beef prices coming second, both producer groups rate animal happiness as one of their units’ most important care factors, according to the report commissioned by the feed supplier for animals, KW Feeds

Based on the average response of the total number received, cow health was the most important factor for dairy farmers (18%), ahead of milk price (15%) and cow happiness at 14%. Beef producers performed similarly, with animal health at 20%, ahead of beef price and animal happiness, both at 16%.

“What this survey reveals is that, in a refreshing way, our farmers recognize the direct correlation between a healthy, happy herd and a profitable herd,” says Georgie Croxford, KW Feeds Ruminant Technical Manager.

The survey that was commissioned to understand farmers’ attitudes towards feeding and feeding strategies, given the unprecedented increases in feed and fertilizer prices in 2022, also reveals that environmental considerations are becoming increasingly important.

Across beef and dairy producers, 81% of farmers said feed origin and carbon footprint were important, with 95% of those who gave this rating aiming to buy UK produce as far as possible.

This despite the fact that the majority of respondents (66%) are not yet required to meet sustainability requirements or environmental objectives as part of their contract. Only 50% are currently asked to measure on-farm carbon footprint through a variety of audit requirements, mostly managed by dairy processor assessments.

With 85% of dairy farmers incorporating grazing into their feeding system, and most beef farmers grazing throughout the animal’s life cycle, the types of feed used on the farm were similar, feed mainly compounds (78%) and mixtures (59%) in their rations. Cattle breeders fed mainly mash (60%).

Despite skyrocketing input and production costs, most respondents (74%) had no plans to change their current foods. However, of those who were, almost half (47%) said they wanted to use more grass and fodder.

However, the long dry summer has meant tight forage supplies and variable silage quality as we head into winter feeding, Ms Croxford warns.

“Forage should be supplemented with minerals, energy sources and protein,” she says.

“British co-products, for example, such as NovaPro rapeseed ejector and Vivergo wheat distillers, can help improve protein utilization and allow producers to get the most out of forage-based rations or grass silage.”

Ms. Croxford concludes: “Maximizing farm efficiency has never been more important, and one way to do that is to get the most out of the forage. Investing in the right complementary feeds will have a bigger positive impact on margins than trying to cut costs with cheaper or fewer feeds.

Boyd S. Abbott