2016-01-26   facebooktwitterrss

Correct Forage Acid Loading and Unlock Significant Savings

The acid load from wet winter forages is costing dairy farmers dear at the moment, but many could unlock up to an extra £1,200 per 100 cows per month by finding an appropriate ration alkalising solution.

That’s according to nutritionist Malcolm Graham from FiveF Alka Ltd, who says data generated from using the latest on farm NIR forage analysis has highlighted the nutritional challenges currently being faced by many UK dairy units. This reinforces trends reported in the early winter by traditional laboratory analysis.

Malcolm Graham

Malcolm Graham

“Whilst many grass silages are of high overall digestibility they also have a set of characteristics that make them very difficult to utilise effectively,” he points out.

“They tend to be bit on the wet side, have strongly lactic acid fermentations, are low in fibre and therefore ferment very quickly in the rumen. So not only are they already strongly acidic, they then digest more like a concentrate feed and create even more excess acidity. In addition, maize silages are also typically wetter and more acidic than in recent years.”

Mr Graham says this underlying acid load is acting like an anchor on farms trying to cut feed costs. “It’s a real drag because whatever combination of increased yield or lower concentrate use is being pursued, success can only be achieved by increasing intakes and digestion of the forage components of the diet. And to do that you must limit the excess ration acidity load.”

He explains that regular on farm forage NIR analysis will give a good indication of the acidity of grass and maize silages. “Once we have this information we can work out a feeding regime that tackles the acid load and then exploit the improved forage utilisation to lower costs or boost cow performance.

“For example, if we can fix the acid load by employing an appropriate ration alkalising solution in the feeds (the concentrate or direct to TMR); and increase forage dry matter intake by just 1kg per head per day, then a whole host of possibilities open up to us. Given the way substitution effects occur in the rumen, this 1kg of dry matter that is already in the clamp and paid for can replace 1kg of concentrates – typically saving 19p a cow per day for the same performance. That’s about £600 per 100 cows per month.”

“Alkalising the diet or the feed materials also allows safe and effective feeding of higher levels of low cost cereal grains that can directly replace higher cost manufactured feeds in the diet. The balancing protein benefit of alkasystem products like Alkagrain means 2-3kg more cereals can be fed safely, often with a saving of £50 to £70 per tonne. That’s a saving of £300 to £600 per 100 cows per month.”

He also adds that if the extra kg of dry matter intake is balanced correctly, the ration should be able to produce another two litres of milk at no extra cost – if plentiful forage stocks that are already paid for are available. “Even in the current climate of depressed milk prices that equates to about 44p per cow per day or an extra £1,300 per 100 cows per month.”


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