16 October 1998

Check forage stocks are

adequate for the winter

By FWlivestock reporters

RE-ASSESS forage stocks now to ensure there is sufficient for cattle this winter and consider alternatives to boost stocks and balance low quality forages.

Chris Savery, ADAS dairy nutritionist warns that even though it has been a grassy year, grazing wasnt easy and many producers have fed more conserved forage than usual. Many silage clamps are now emptier than normal and maize yields may be low.

Alternative feeds may help to stretch forage stocks, but source them now, he advises. "Alternative feeds, such as brewers grains and wet citrus pulp, are currently reasonably priced, but prices may increase as demand is high."

Mr Savery also suggests considering potatoes, potato by-products and sugar beet tails where available. Grazed grass remains a good bulk feed for low yielders while ground conditions allow, he adds.

Dumfries-based SAC dairy specialist John Bax says that in north Scotland poor grazing conditions have seen large quantities of first cut silage fed. Wet brewers grains and straw mixes may be required to stretch silage supplies.

"In south-west Scotland most producers have enough silage, but quality is variable. There are many low dry matter silages with low intake factors."

Intakes can be improved by mixing with forages such as maize, whole-crop cereals, brewers grains, grainbeet or molasses, he says.

He adds that other by-product feeds such as bread waste can be included in rations. But its essential to secure a regular supply and many are only suitable for use in a mixer wagon.

Some silages are also low in protein, and when mixing them with maize or whole-crop more degradeable protein, such as rapemeal or urea-based liquid feeds, must be fed.

Beef producers in south-west Scotland face the same concerns over variable quality, particularly with big bale silage, says Signet consultant Gavin Hill. "Analyse silage now. On many farms theres plenty of barley available for feeding to help increase energy levels, but protein is needed to balance it, particularly for young stock."

Further south, silage on some units, particularly upland farms, may be less than 10ME, says Staffs-based Signet consultant Ian Pritchard. "This may be fine for spring calving sucklers, but weaned calves and finishers will need a balanced ration to grow.

"Low bushel weight cereals, straights and alternatives such as vegetable waste should all be considered – straw and silage are not enough to balance poor silage."

Wales-based ADAS nutritionist David Peers warns that many first cuts are acidic so care is needed with the amount of cereal fed in straights or compounds to avoid digestive upsets.

But when grass silage quality is good there is potential to feed cheap rations, says Cheshire-based Grosvenor Farms general manager Mark Roach. "Here, cows fed a mixed ration of high protein grass silage, wheat and brewers grains, costing less than 3p a litre, are averaging 28 litres a day." There has been no drop in milk yield since beginning this ration three weeks ago when maize ran out.

WINTER FEEDING

&#8226 Re-assess stocks.

&#8226 Consider alternatives now.

&#8226 Mix feeds to improve intakes.