Thursday, 22 October 2015

Feeding cattle over winter – how webinars are spreading expert advice to farmers


Being in the business of transferring knowledge, it’s important that we at AHDB Beef & Lamb have a good understanding of how best to reach our main audience, levy payers.

We have a number of tried and tested methods, but are always looking for new ways to share the latest research findings and expert advice. Recently we launched a number of webinars, and despite a few technical glitches at the start, we were able to host vet and nutritionist Debby Brown as she talked about feeding cattle over winter, and so far the feedback has been positive.


Debby Brown

But before we get into the technical aspects of the subject matter, you may be thinking ‘what is a webinar?’ Well, they create an opportunity for multiple people to listen to and watch a presentation by an expert, no matter where they are based. It’s like a conference but people don’t have to travel to attend, you can watch from the comfort of your home or farm office (as long as you have an internet connection).

There is minimal input required from the audience. All you need to do is click a few links, register and then sit back and enjoy the webinar! This is useful, as we know it’s not always easy to leave the farm to attend a face-to-face meeting or conference.

Debby hosted two webinars, the first was called Feeding the Suckler Cow This Winter and the second Growing and Finishing Cattle This Winter. The former saw Debbie talk about the nutrient requirements of both autumn and spring calving cows and give advice about planning rations for them whilst keeping an eye on costs. She focused on providing practical advice on choosing feeds that combine to make a balanced ration and how to monitor if the ration is working for the cow. 

One of Debby's slides showing the way protein is processed

There was an emphasis on the importance of body condition score and the need to measure and monitor the changes in condition, calf growth, intakes and performance, and Debby highlighted the beef Better Returns Programme resources that can help with these tasks. These include the blend and ration calculators and feeding manuals.

The latter webinar, about growing and finishing cattle, saw Debby share expertise on the nutritional needs of the animals. She stressed that the overall target is to optimise performance in health so that the animals give a return on what you want to get out of them.

The webinars have proved useful tools in sharing information to an audience that is spread far and wide and are another example of the way digital technology is supporting the industry. For anyone who was unable to take part, both of the winter feeding webinars are hosted on our YouTube channel, and can be played back at any time.

More webinars will no-doubt be planned so keep your eyes peeled!