Replacing sodium bicarbonate buffer in beef finishing rations with a slow release rumen conditioner can increase growth rate by 7% and feed efficiency by 5%. This is according to the results of a recent University of Milan trial.
The trial used 126 Charolais bulls grown from around 530kg LW to finishing at 750kg LW. In addition to an ad lib mixed ration based on maize silage and brewers’ grains, cattle received either 80g/head/day of sodium bicarbonate or 40g/head/day of the slow release rumen conditioner Acid Buf (hereafter called ‘conditioner’).
Feed intake was unaffected, but an improvement in feed conversion ratio for the cattle receiving the conditioner (6.98 vs. 7.36) resulted in an increase in average daily gain from 1.57kg/day to 1.65kg/day. No differences were seen in carcass weight, confirmation or fat score, or killing out percentage. There was also a significant reduction in the incidence of bloat in the conditioner supplemented group, plus fewer cases of lameness and less aggressive behaviour.
According to AB Vista, the performance gains are a direct result of improvements in rumen conditions, in addition to none of the negative impacts on outflow rates associated with sodium bicarbonate that can lower feed efficiency. The change in behaviour matches observations when the conditioner is used on-farm, and is likely due to the calming effect of the bio-available source of magnesium in the product.