The objective of raising beef cattle is to obtaining good quality meat in a short period of time. Prerequisite for that is a healthy herd that turns feed into body mass, under optimal growing conditions where animals feel comfortable. This all starts from the very beginning, under skilled management conditions and with well-balanced nutrition. Selsaf, Actisaf and Safmannan - natural yeast products from Phileo by Lesaffre, have proved to be useful additions to achieving that goal.
Raising beef in Europe is divided in 3 main types of farms: breeders, breeder-fatteners, and fatteners. Breeder farms keep cows for breeding. They produce calves and sell them to fattening farms for fattening. This will be the most common model of beef fattening system in Europe.
Breeder-fatteners have cows for breeding and in the same way as breeding farms will produce calves but will keep part or all of them in the same farm and raise them until finishing. These operations are less common as they require specialization in both breeding and fattening.
Fattening farms or feedlots are a larger type of farms that purchase calves at different ages after the weaning and fatten them until finishing / processing. feedlots are strictly specialized in fattening and use high concentrate diets.
Technically, that beef farming is divided in two very different segments:
Breeding requires special experience and knowledge in breeding cows and producing healthy newborn calves. Most of the time the animals are fed on pasture with minimal additional supplementation. The main challenges the breeders face are reproduction and neonatal diseases.
Fatteners or feedlots are strictly specialized in fattening cattle in the most efficient way and producing high quality meat. The animals are raised in confined system in feedlots and are fed mainly with high energy diets rich in grains. Those are larger farms that buy animals from many different areas. Their main challenges are respiratory diseases and digestive disorders caused by grouping of different animals and switching from fiber to high concentrated diets.
Feedlots, while more profitable also face a large number of problems. Animals arrive from different farms, areas and even countries. They travel some time thousands of kilometers with feed restriction which creates a lot of stress and may result in depressed immunity. Upon arrival animals coming from different locations are grouped together which creates an additional risk of spreading diseases. All those factors facilitate the development of infectious disease, the main of which is the bovine respiratory disease or BRD. BRD is a term to describe a respiratory problem caused by different pathogens including viruses and bacteria. BRD is the main reason for extensive usage of antibiotics in the feedlots.
Digestive problems will come as the second major concern in the feedlots. Calves are transitioned from a high fiber diet, mainly pasture, to a high energy diet which often is composed of only concentrated feed. This transition requires an adaptation of the rumen fermentation and is often accompanied by subclinical ruminal acidosis. Ruminal acidosis have a negative impact not only on feed digestibility and animal performance but may negatively affect overall health. Animals with acidosis eat less, grow at a slower rate and are more prone to other diseases.
A high energy and well-balanced grain-based ration is needed however, for optimal growth and meat quality.
To get the calves on track with optimal performance and minimum sickness the receiving (conditioning) period is of great importance. This period covers in average the first 30 days of arrival in the feedlot and is characterized with maximum stress and health incidents. The animals are grouped, dewormed, vaccinated and in the same time transitioned from high fiber to high grain diet. Transition period requires excellent health and nutritional management. A successful transition is a key to overall productivity and health throughout the entire fattening period. Good management and nutrition and supplementation of functional feed additives as live yeast probiotics, yeast postbiotics, and selenium enriched yeast during this period proved to be very efficient to support a smoother and easier transition, yeast probiotics support the rumen fermentation and significantly facilitate diet transition, while selenium yeast and yeast postbiotics help reduce stress and pathogens pressure supporting healthier transition with less antibiotics.
A trial performed in a large Italian feedlot on 1000 receiving calves supplemented with yeast probiotic Actisaf, yeast postbiotic Safmannan, and selenium enriched yeast Selsaf helped reduce overall sickens and improved feed conversion rate. The animals had significantly less incidences of BRD which resulted in less usage of antibiotics. The supplementation also supported better diet adaptation with significantly increased weight gain for the entire fattening period with overall ROI 3:1
In another trial with Charolaise bulls for fattening, the animals were supplemented only with yeast probiotic Actisaf but through the entire fattening phase, and while there was no significant reduction in BRD, there was a significant increase of the daily weight gain (DWG), overall weight gain and carcass weight. The DWG was improved by 80 grams per day with significant increase in feed conversion rate.
With the continuing pressure on the antibiotic usage and constant increase in demand and price of high-quality feed material yeast probiotics and postbiotics are safe, natural and reliable way to improve health, feed conversion and profitability in the modern European feedlots.