Industry collaborates to improve beef feed guidelines

Acting on the outcome of an industry review, AHDB Beef & Lamb is funding a five-year collaborative project to deliver improved beef cattle feeding guidelines.

Evidence suggests that current guidance underestimates nutritional requirements in a number of areas. To address this, a much-needed update to the beef cattle feeding systems guide, AFRC 1993, is about to begin.

Funded by AHDB Beef & Lamb, the collaborative ‘Feed into Beef’ project is being led by the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

Dr Mary Vickers, AHDB senior scientist, said: “It is 25 years since the last major update to the guidance was published and both animal genetics and feeding systems have changed a lot since the underpinning data was recorded in the 1980s. Changes in market specifications, with major meat processors seeking younger animals with lighter carcases but with similar fat cover, is another key reason to update nutritional guidelines.”

CIEL is working with a range of academic and industry partners to harness the best of current science and align it to industry needs. Both AFBI and SRUC have run studies on intake, growth and emissions from beef cattle over recent years. The large amount of data from these studies, alongside new concepts taken from overseas work, will be used to update models of feed intake, energy and protein requirements, rumen function, growth and body composition.

Other areas of work within the project will develop and update feed values needed to run the nutritional models, as well as exploring ways to include the increasing amount of farm-collected information in the rationing process.

Dr Vickers said: “The project is still in the early stages but has been shaped to bring together industry, academic and commercial players across the beef industry to deliver a nutritional model that will enable beef farmers to increase production efficiency, reduce the feed cost and improve the environmental impact of beef production.”

An open meeting in November will outline project scope in more detail and address questions potential partners may have. More information is available online at

Industry members are currently sought to join the industry advisory group, which will advise researchers and aid the development of models that will serve the industry well into the future. Companies interested in being involved in the group should contact Mark Young ( or CIEL (


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.