Skip to content

Cheap By-Product Feeds No Longer Exist

6 June 2017

The feed market for livestock, and in particular for beef, has changed dramatically in the last few years.  Two major changes are –

Introduction of Anaerobic Digesters

The introduction of anaerobic digester (AD) plants. The following map shows the distribution on AD plants throughout the UK as of the end of last year.  The vast majority are effectively a large scale industrial rumen, some of them utilising the same feeds which were traditionally fed to farm animals.  An average farm sized plant will utilise (eat) the same amount of food as would support a 1,000 cow dairy herd all year and would largely be based on dedicated energy crops (maize in England, winter rye in Scotland).  Large commercial plants now account for the majority of the distillery feed by-products (such as draff).   AD operators may not always have the flexibility to accept distressed loads of unwanted feedstocks due to renewable energy reporting requirements. Also like a cows any changes in diet must be carefully and gradually introduced to avoid upsetting the bacteria.  Collectively these plants now represent a growing market for feed-by products and are calling on a growing (but still relatively small) area of energy crops, no longer available for feeding livestock.

Finishing Units

The increasing size/number of finishing units. Units are becoming more specialised in finishing cattle and for the majority of these the key to their success is the availability of cheap by-products from the food industry. The benefit for the producers of by-product feeds is knowing they can move large amounts of unexpected by-product with a single telephone call. In addition, having excellent unloading/storage facilities to take even the biggest lorries, is another significant factor to help reduce transport costs.

This major change in UK feed supplies means the majority of us will be forced to–

  • Be increasingly dependant on homegrown feed supplies
  • Co-operate with other local producers, particularly arable producers i.e. develop long term contract growing arrangements
  • Plan ahead and communicate with suppliers to ensure you get supplies you need

Karen Stewart,

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service