2013-04-05 xml
Dairy Producers Should Avoid Forage Panic

Winter isn’t over yet – says Provimi ruminant manager Philip Ingram this week as freezing night temperatures and snow showers continue across the British Isles.

Dr Ingram urges advisers and producers across the UK and Ireland to take stock of forage supplies and carry out any necessary action if they are running below budget.

Philip Ingram

Dr Philip Ingram

“There are massive variations across the country,” he says. “Cows in Cork, in Southern Ireland, have been fully at grass since late February. More northern areas of the UK can only budget for getting dairy cows to grass in May. Producers in different areas will be at very different stages of their feeding season.

“But it’s not too late to re-assess supplies of forages and avoid any last minute panic,” he adds. “Calculate the stock’s requirement against the estimated time they have left in the cattle sheds and then decide on your strategy if you look to be running short.”

Dr Ingram suggests a number of routes depending on the circumstances on the farm. “One option is to reduce forage requirements. It might be possible to sell some stock such as any beef cattle. Prices are good now so it might be a good time.”

Alternatively, some forage may be replaced with concentrate. Or an early bite could be considered for young stock which have much lower requirements than cows and cause less damage to any wet ground. These cattle may need to be topped up with concentrate.

Some producers might consider grazing dairy cows for a couple of hours as day which will improve intakes and leave more silage for buffer feeding.

But he guards against relying too much on grazed grass too soon and before grass quality is good enough to support milk yields. “And remember that fresh grass is highly digestible so there are potential risks of SARA and reduced butterfats.”

Buying extra forage is the route that most will consider. “Producers should get proper representative samples of product analysed to make sure they know what they are buying in terms of dry matter and quality. It is much easier to assess this in clamped silage than in baled product. And weigh up the price of this forage compared with feeding more concentrate on a dry matter basis – taking into account the logistical hassle of transporting silage. Mixing the new silage with remaining stock will smooth the transition to new supplies if this can be done practically.

“The forage situation varies on farms across the country but it’s worth having a careful look to see if there’s enough to see you through safely into spring. At the moment it doesn’t look as though we can be too confident of an early grass growing season so it’s best to be prepared.”


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