Feed into Beef research project

Feed into Beef is a collaborative research project funded by AHDB, working in partnership with CIEL, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). The five-year  programme aims to deliver improved beef cattle feeding guidelines. 

Project aims

There is strong evidence that current guidance under- or over-estimates nutritional requirements for different classes of beef cattle. These nutrient requirements have not been revised since the publication of an AFRC book in 1993. Since that time the genetic base of the English cattle population has changed considerably as have feeds commonly used by farmers.

An update of these nutrition models is overdue.

The focus of updates include:

  • Predicting feed intake
  • Growth and the effects on carcass composition
  • Energy requirements
  • Protein requirements
  • Revised and broader information on feed values plus consideration of feed interactions

Final results from this project will be published in a series of scientific journals to receive a robust peer review of the science behind the changes.

Our approach

This project aims to deliver new guidelines for predicting beef cattle performance and feed requirements by:

  • Engaging with industry to clearly define needs and priorities
  • Developing new equations to provide improved predictions of feed intake for main types of beef cattle
  • Developing new models for predicting growth and composition of modern beef genotypes according to both category of animal and the feed they are offered and consume
  • Revising models for rumen microbial protein synthesis and metabolisable protein requirements to better predict the effect of dietary protein on animal performance
  • Revising feed values for major feed categories fed to beef cattle in the UK – particularly filling gaps in information about new feed types
  • Modelling the effects of feed interactions on feed values. The current system does not consider such interactions
  • Developing prediction models for methane emissions of beef cattle to help carbon footprinting of beef cattle production systems

Towards the end of the project there will be a focused campaign of knowledge exchange to disseminate key outputs of the project and encourage the implementation of the new models.

Industry engagement is critically important to the success of this project.  An Industry Advisory Group has been established to help steer the development of the nutritional models and ensure they are fit for purpose for UK beef systems and those companies supporting farmers through the provision of feeds or advice on pasture management and feed conservation (e.g. silage making). This group are providing critical feedback to the science teams and will have access to the new models at an early stage to test and implement in their own systems.  


Project update

Literature reviews for prediction feed intake, deriving energy requirements, protein requirements, predicting growth & body composition and on the use of farm data to better predict requirements for individual animals have been conducted and are under internal review. The focus is now on developing new models using predicted feed intake and predicted growth and body/carcass composition as the initial focus.

A database is currently being collated to include feed intake, animal live weight and carcass data from various sources and previous trials for studies of beef cattle nutrition. Data from these past trials will be used to test new models in order to determine the best equations to use in predicting requirements for feed, or to predict performance of animals for a given ration.

The Industry Advisory Group meet to discuss the progress of the project and feedback issues that they encounter day to day through contact with farmers or experiences they have on their own farms.