Whether you are finishing beef cattle on a cereal or forage-based system, adding a molasses blend could have a significant impact on performance.

“Sugars are a vital nutrient in all beef rations and are more than just a source of energy,” comments Georgina Chapman, from molasses blend specialists ED&F Man. “They can have a positive impact on rumen health and digestion across all diets.” She explains that both starch and sugars are fermentable carbohydrate sources.

Sugars are rapidly fermentable, providing an immediate energy source for rumen microbes, making sugars a valuable way to improve rumen function. “It is important to understand that not all sugar sources are the same. The six-carbon sugars found in molasses based liquid feeds are more highly fermentable than the five-carbon sugars found in silages and other liquid feeds that are co-products of fermentation such as pot ale syrup and wheat syrups. “In addition, as these products have already been fermented they have little effect in the rumen, unlike molasses where the sugars are fermented in the rumen, stimulating microbial activity and growth.”

In forage-based diets, Georgina says that feeding molasses-based liquid feeds to supplement grazing or conserved forages improved the value of the forages, driving dry matter intakes and improving fibre digestibility.

Rapidly fermentable carbohydrates are required by the fibre digesting bacteria in the rumen. Sugars fuel the bacteria, increasing the numbers of bacteria present and the rate at which fibre is digested which releases more nutrients from the feed. In addition, a more rapid fermentation increases rumen throughput and stimulates higher dry matter intakes without risking rumen health.