With analysis by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) showing that 45% of prime cattle finished in the UK may be failing to meet processor specification, total penalties applied across the 1.9 million slaughtered last year could total £38 million* or more.

“Recent increases to some processor penalties mean that the total value lost for missing target specification could be up to £200 for a continental beef carcase,” states KW nutritionist Charlotte Ward.

“Even if the average penalty is only £40-45/head, it’s a loss few can afford, and which is largely avoidable if feed choice and rations are properly matched to breed and growth targets.”

Feeding too much starch to native breeds will produce overfat carcases, for example, particularly if ration protein levels are low. And even continental cattle need more protein than many realise.

“Aim for 20-25% starch and 14-16% crude protein (CP) for native breeds, or 30-35% starch and 12-14% CP for continental types,” she advises. “The balance of energy supply in the rumen is also critical to maximise feed efficiency and avoid acidosis.

“For starch, processed bread and the biscuit blends like SweetStarch are good value options, whilst soya hulls or sugar beet feed will supply much-needed digestible fibre. The various dual purpose feeds are also worth considering, with Traffordgold wheat-gluten moist feed and ReguPro 38 high-protein liquid feed providing both energy and additional protein.”

* Based on AHDB 2015 average prime cattle DCW of 356kg, 45% of cattle missing specification, and estimated average penalty of 12.5p/kg.