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Feeding Stock in Periods of Drought and Forage Shortages
2010-08-06

Although parts of the UK are experiencing downpours and even flooding many other areas are still experiencing the results of drought conditions. This will make the coming winter challenging for many stock farmers, across the UK, when it comes to finding sufficient feed to get through until next spring.

© www.farm-images.co.uk

first cut grass silage

In dry areas the yields of first cut grass silage were below requirements on many farms, aftermath growth has been almost non-existent and if there has been any growth much of it has had to be grazed. The prospects of getting additional grass crops are receding, unless there are good steady falls of rain spread over some weeks. But then if the rains do come the grass growth will be of poor feed quality whether grazed or conserved.

The lack of adequate forage will not be able to maintain normal stocking rates so supplementation is essential as they will be low in protein, vitamin A and phosphorous. To maintain productivity nutrient levels have to be maintained.

One way to tackle the forage shortage is to reduce stock numbers, which will reduce stress within the herd and on the pasture with more forage for the remaining stock. However, this is not an option in the majority of cases although, if this route is taken, there will only be a small effect on weaning weights of calves and lambs with the cows and ewes maintaining condition.

During drought conditions a balanced mineral should be on offer ad-lib. As noted before vitamin A and phosphorous will be lacking in the available forage. Any forage conserved at this time or following will be similarly affected.

Pastures dormant due to drought conditions may be deficient in protein. If these conditions occur during the breeding season, reductions in pregnancy rate can occur and the lack of energy will also be a severe problem to stock and this will have a compounding effect on fertility.

When producers are looking for supplement feed, to be fed with conserved forage, straw is an obvious choice. However, straw cannot be used as a feed on its own because the stock just cannot eat enough of it so will not get adequate energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. With a full gut animals may look in good condition but they will steadily loose weight. This is where regular condition scoring of cows can help.

A liquid feed is an option in these situations, outside or housed. Liquid feeds are based on molasses, which will buffer the energy lacking in the basic ration and with the forecast that forage, including straw, will be at premium prices this coming winter liquids will help to maximise the feed value of all forages consumed.

Liquid feed is available at different protein levels with the protein in the liquid in the form of urea. Urea being the best form of Rumen Degradable Protein (RDP) for cattle and sheep; it will enable the animal to maximise the use of the straw and other available forage.

High quality feed blocks containing urea and vegetable proteins are also an option during this time. Supplying both RDP and UDP these blocks can help the animal to maximise the feed value of the forage on offer.

Liquid feeds, from the Denis Brinicombe Group, contain a balanced range of minerals, trace elements and vitamins. However, it is recommended that another free access mineral source is available at all times so that animals can regulate their individual requirements. Various ration examples are available from the Group.

The range of Stokblok™ and Stockade™ blocks from the Group not only contain the urea required by the animal but also energy in the form of molasses and in most cases Megalac, a by-pass energy source. Additionally, minerals, trace elements and vitamins balanced for the class of stock being fed are included in the formulation of the block.

link New High Specification Trace Element Cattle Capsules
link Kiotech Appoints Lucy Waldron as Senior Nutrionist
link BOCM Pauls Invests in Learning

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