Now is a good time to assess forage mineral status to ensure cattle are receiving exactly what they require, while also creating a potential opportunity to cut costs.
With the current milk price, every penny saved counts, so checking whole-ration mineral supply could highlight areas where savings can be made. It is important to recognise all sources of minerals, including blends and boluses. However, understanding forage mineral status is a good starting point.
Often forage testing can highlight where farmers can reduce certain mineral levels.
Phosphate in particular is one mineral that is commonly oversupplied. An off-the-shelf mineral can commonly supply excess phosphate, and with a saving of about £25/t for every 1% phosphate, there are substantial savings to be made.
There are also environmental benefits of accurately matching mineral supply to requirements.
Maize, wholecrop and treated grain typically have a lower mineral profile than grass silage, so when feeding rations with high levels of these feeds, be aware you may have a greater requirement for vitamin E and selenium.
Aim to test forage minerals three to four times a year and especially during winter feeding. Often this can be included as part of the package delivered by your nutritionist.
Ensuring cows receive the right minerals will help improve overall health. Ultimately, the healthier the cow, the cheaper it is to keep her.
Also, ensure forages are tested for quality every six to eight weeks. Monitoring dry matter is particularly important, as this can easily fluctuate through the year and will significantly affect performance if not factored into ration balance.
Robin Hawkey is a senior nutritionist for Mole Valley Feed Solutions.