Prime beef from top-class ration

A diet that includes ingredients ranging from potatoes and parsnips to oven chips sounds like one that would suit most stomachs. But it’s the beef cattle at C Read and Sons’ Suffolk farm that get to enjoy such a selection, as part of a TMR blended by a Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Pro diet feeder. And the resulting beef meets the demanding specifications of a supermarket known for its discerning customers.

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Based at Burrough Green, not far from Newmarket, low rainfall means grass growth is not a strong point in what is predominantly an arable area. The upside of the sandy loam soils surrounding the farm’s clay land, though, is the extensive area of vegetable crops grown locally. It means there’s an excellent supply of reject roots – those too big or too small for packers, processing and the supermarket trade – that can be used to provide a low cost yet high quality starch element for the cattle, as part of a mix including more traditional TMR ingredients.

“We’ve got a wide selection of different, good quality reject vegetables we can pick from, and what we buy depends on their relative prices,” says Peter Read, who runs the business with his father and two uncles.

“Aside from some minerals and brewers’ grains, none of our TMR ingredients comes from more than a few miles from the farm. We produce as much as we can, but we are primarily a livestock farm growing feed crops, rather than an arable farm with cattle. We grow our own grass, cereals and maize, and either source the ingredients we can’t grow from suppliers, or contract land from other farmers on which to grow crops such as fodder beet.”

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Peter’s uncle Francis spends much of his week on the road, sourcing two-year-old cattle from farms and markets across England, but primarily in the West Country. The animals, comprising Hereford, Aberdeen-Angus and continental crosses, are loose-housed in straw yards, and finished in 90-140 days at 720kg liveweight. With up to 2,000 head of cattle kept across the business’s four main farm units, its twin-auger Shelbourne-Reynolds Powermix Pro 25 is kept busy for much of the day.

“The machine can be mixing and distributing up to five loads of 14t daily in summer, and 32t/day in winter, so it works hard. We’re feeding a 35kg/head TMR of grass and maize silage, rolled barley and fodder beet, plus brewers’ grains and minerals. The rest of the starch element comes from locally-sourced reject root vegetables, which can be any or all of parsnips, potatoes and chips. I buy according to the best price I’m given, and the cattle do well whatever the vegetable elements are in the mix.”

In total, around 100 finished cattle, split evenly between the three types, leave the farm units each week, destined ultimately for the shelves of Waitrose supermarkets across the country. Quality feeds help to ensure cattle meet the specifications demanded when on the hook, but getting those ingredients inside them when they’re on the hoof is where the Powermix makes its contribution.

“It gives us a thorough mix that ensures the cattle are getting every bit of their intended diet, says Peter.

“And for a machine which has its work cut out to get through a lot of work each day, it’s never let us down.” 

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