Casting an eye at alternative energy-rich feeds can pay off
By Richard Allison
HIGHER cereal prices and likely premiums for sugar beet pulp are forcing many producers to reassess winter feeding strategies by considering alternative energy feeds.
Forward feed wheat prices are already 15% higher than last year, says Kite Consultings Tim Davies. "In addition, tonnage of sugar beet is down causing probable premiums for sugar beet feed this winter."
As a result, concentrate costs are likely to be about 10% more than last winter. Energy-rich feeds account for up to 80% of total ration costs, so it pays to look at alternative feeds while there is still time to buy them in, advises Mr Davies.
"Cereal by-products, citrus pulp and maize gluten offer some scope to cut concentrate costs. Even after recent increases in maize gluten price, it is still a good buy at less than £100/t," he adds.
Maize meal is one alternative starch source to wheat, says Promars Dorset-based consultant James Shenton. "However, it is not competitively priced due to the current import tariff of £64/t.
"Molasses is also a useful energy feed, but has recently become expensive. There is no point paying more for molasses at 70% dry matter with 12.5ME MJ/kg, when cereals have higher dry matter and energy contents. Molasses is effective at stimulating intakes of high dry matter silage and straw-based rations."
Biscuit meal is a good cereal replacer, believes independent consultant Ivor Bending, who runs a straights feeders group. "As with concentrates, the meal must be stored properly, in dry conditions, to prevent waste.
"Waste products, such as bakery waste, can be a cost-effective alternative, particularly for producers in the midlands where many factories and bakeries are situated. This is because transportation can easily push up costs."
Bread waste can be kept for up to two weeks with good hygiene and sheeting. Mr Bending has clients who clamp bread waste, using propionic acid and sheeting, in a long narrow clamp. "It is an excellent feed when kept properly," he says.
South Yorks producer Jim Williams has been feeding bread waste to his 140-cow herd and replacement heifers for eight years. "Bread and mashed potato waste are high energy starch sources which form the basis of the ration. The farm is not in a cereal growing area, so cereals are less competitive.
"When sourcing bakery waste, a good relationship with the bakery is crucial to ensure co-operation in removing foil and other foreign objects from the feed.
"And sign a contract with suppliers to guarantee a regular supply at a fixed cost."
Mr Williams also warns that waste is produced all year round and the factory will expect it to be taken during summer, a time when concentrates are not normally fed to cows.
He feeds 3-5kg/head of bread waste and 6-7kg/head of mashed potato waste without any health problems, achieving average yields of 8000 litres/head.
Mr Williams adds that digestive upsets are more likely when feeding bread with high D-value silage. "It is the overall ration balance that is important. Ensure there is plenty of fibre when feeding starchy by-product."
Mr Shenton also points out that insufficient fibre is a common cause of acidosis, lameness and low milk fat content.
One source of highly digestible fibre is sugar beet pulp, but this winter it could prove too costly. A competitively-priced, quality alternative is citrus pulp, believes Mr Bending.
"Citrus pulp is widely available and can be purchased in 10t loads. But make sure it contains at least 95% orange pulp, as too much lemon and grapefruit reduces palatability."
But when reviewing winter-feeds, producers need to remember that cereals are still a cheap feed at £100/t, stresses Mr Shenton. "All my clients are planning to feed cereals this winter. Prices of alternative feeds tend to move up and down relative to wheat."
Mr Bending also believes cereals are still a cheap buy, but advises purchasing cereals directly from a neighbouring farm to cut transport costs.
"But do not be tempted by price alone. Check grain quality and look for higher grain weights as fatter grains will contain more starch relative to the fibrous coat, increasing energy content, he adds. *
• Consider waste products.
• Maintain fibre intake.
• Cereals still competitive.