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Making the most of winter feed

5 December 2016

As dairy farmers settle into winter feeding routines, Bethany May, ruminant nutritionist from Trident Feeds, explores how to maximise the value of home grown forages.

“Milk prices are slowly on the rise which is great news,” reports Bethany. “However, there’s still a requirement to control variable costs, such as ensuring every amount of additional feed leads to a positive financial response, to maximise margins,” she adds.

“For this reason, when formulating rations producers need to consider factors such as cow condition, for short and longer term benefits, milk contract payment schemes, and focus on balancing rations to maximise feeding efficiency as one can often find more litres from the same amount of feed.”

Address energy deficits to get cows on track  

Some grazing herds have entered winter with a body condition score (BCS) lower than ideal due to energy deficits caused by variable and often reduced grazing quality and quantity, as market economics have instinctively led to less supplementary summer feeding.

Once indoors, on what may be a better plane of nutrition, cows will prioritise by regaining body condition ahead of milk production, with fertility and milk protein continuing to suffer if energy deficits remain uncorrected.

For this reason, and to stimulate use of additional home grown forages, producers should consider including a high energy and protein liquid, such as Spey Syrup, in the ration.

This will help raise the energy density greater than cereals, and provide rumen degradable protein to help in forage digestion, as well as improve palatability and therefore drive dry matter intake (DMI).

To increase the energy density even further, consider supplementing with protected fats such as Golden Flake, a balanced C16 and C18 product, which will help to increase yield, maintain body condition and indirectly boost fertility.

Leave maize in the clamp for at least six weeks

The majority of maize crops matured earlier than expected this year due to favourable growing conditions and early analysis results from Trouw Nutrition GB, are indicating that as a consequence, starch degradability is down 3% on last year at 76.8% thereby reducing rumen energy supply.

For this reason, producers should try to keep maize in the clamp for at least six to eight weeks before feeding, as the crop needs time to reach second stage fermentation. This process increases starch degradability providing more rumen energy.

Balance starch degradability in maize silages

Producers who want to feed maize silage straight away will need to focus on ensuring adequate supply of rumen energy to optimise rumen function.

Firstly, get your maize analysed to really understand what you’re working with. There is huge variation in results across the country so it’s important that producers don’t just go on their usual average.

Spey Syrup is a great source of available rumen energy, with additional yeast fragments, which stimulate rumen microbes to improve digestion and microbial protein production.

Producers will need to reanalyse maize regularly as starch degradability will increase with time in the clamp, meaning producers may need to switch to a slower release energy source, such as maize meal or soda wheat to buffer the rumen later in the season.

As more starch becomes available and cereal products are fed, it will be necessary to introduce digestible fibre in the form of sugar beet fed to ensure the ration remains balanced and good rumen health is maintained and not forgetting improve the milk fat percentage to maximise the milk contract value per litre.

Consider forage density

Where the energy content of the forage is lower than usual, and, if you’re pushing for greater yields, consider including protected fats.

If your contract requires higher milk fat percentage, then consider introducing a C16 protected fat such as Butterfat Extra. If you’re just looking to focus on yield or body condition, consider putting in an energy boosting fat such as Golden Flake, a balanced C16 and C18 fat.

It’s also useful to complement protected fats with some protected protein. Quite often, this can be very cost effectively achieved by replacing soya with combinations of British wheat distillers with rumen protected soya sources, with double the rumen by-pass to soya, such as SoyPass.

Links to Feed Information

For more information:

Email or call 01733 422214.

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