29 September 1995

Beating the silage shortfall

Forage quality looks fine but quantity is down at least 20% across the country. The picture emerged at the Dairy Farming Event where Feeding Forum experts offered valuable rationing advice

KEEP the better quality forage for early lactation cows and put dry cows and heifers onto straw-based diets.

Dr Richard Phipps, head of feeding studies at the Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR), Reading University, issued the advice to a packed Feeding Forum audience. It was keen to find feed options to overcome what Forum consultants estimated on average was a 20% shortfall in grass and maize silage across the country.

For those considering offering straw, Dr Phipps highlighted the need to ensure the ration was well balanced for energy and protein.

Farm manager at CEDAR, Mike Collis, said a surprising variety of straights could be fed as supplements alongside straw to balance the ration. The options included well-known products such as maize gluten and home-grown cereals to high protein sunflower and soya products.

He said the first signs that the "recipe" was wrong would be poor cow pat consistency and/or a drop in milk quality. This had been reflected by inquiries at the Forum by producers who had experienced falling milk proteins and reduced conception rates.

"In these cases, cows diets have been short of energy," he said. "But as soon as the grass started returning, producers were finding that proteins were going back up. However, it will be important not to overestimate the value of autumn grass."

For those seeking to enhance milk proteins he recommended starch sources such as properly rolled, or very coarsely ground cereals, maize screenings (cracked maize grains), maize meal, or caustic-treated wheat.

CEDARs Dr Richard Phipps: Ensure the ration is well balanced for energy and protein.