Planning forage feeding this year is a very different jigsaw than in most years – and with more pieces, according to Provimi ruminant manager Philip Ingram. “It’s a different sort of jigsaw on farms across the UK and Ireland this year. There’s less forage than normal and what there is, is of poorer quality. Additionally, many producers are using different forages in the mix to make up the shortfall in their usual supplies.”
Dr Philip Ingram
Added to this is the ‘carry-over’ impact of the wet 2012 season on production, health and fertility. “Cows are coming off the back of the grazing season less well nourished and they need a ration plan that will get them back on track,” adds Dr Ingram. “And another very nasty spanner in the works, in many cases, is some wet, acidic silages.”
There will be many forages being considered this season and, according to Dr Ingram, they all have different attributes, as shown in Table 1.
“Early results from forage analysis centres show a distinct trend towards more fibrous and less digestible forages. In many cases, producers are dealing with silage ME values at least 0.6 MJ down on 2011.
“In practical terms, this means that the average cow on a 60% forage diet will be short on energy to the equivalent of 1.5litres of milk. And when we consider the impact of more fibrous forages on reducing dry matter intakes, this figure can be easily doubled.”
It is likely that producers, typically in the south of the country, will be using more grass silage and wholecrop to compensate for the lack of maize silage. With relatively lower energy content in wholecrop compared with other forages, there is a limit to how much can be included in the ration before cows start to ‘run out of steam’.
“This year it is important that producers make maximum use of whatever forages they have,” says Dr Ingram. “The priority is budgeting forage to make sure there is enough to last through the winter. Secondly, producers and nutritionists must make sure they get the mix of forages right, and then use concentrates to compliment these forages.”
Producers have a number of options this winter. “Particularly topical and relevant is the use of a fibre-busting feed additive like Amaferm. This product can stimulate the rumen fungi that penetrate the fibre, even lignin - the ‘toughest’ of the fibres – which allows the bacteria in the rumen to make better use of the forage.
“Trials have shown a 30% increase in fibre digestibility and a 4.8% increase in milk production - typically to the tune of 1 to 2 litres - when Amaferm is added to rations,” adds Dr Ingram.
Amaferm can be added to compound feeds and blends or be fed via a farm pack at a rate of 100g/head/day.”
Key to success this winter will be getting to grips with the available forage by making sure it is analysed and then budgeting carefully. “Producers must know how much they have and of what quality so they can plan and balance the ration for energy, protein and minerals. Getting through the winter with sufficient feed and giving the rumen what it needs to make maximum use of the forage has to be the number one priority.”
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