Complementary forages growing in importance
By Allan Wright
MAIZE, whole-crop and legume silage should not be called alternatives to grass silage.
"It is not a case of feeding one or the other and they should be called complementary forages," Dave Roberts told 200 delegates to a conference and open day on the subject at the Scottish Agricultural Colleges Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries.
Dr Roberts said the big question was whether producers needed to grow such crops. "The answer is not as cut and dried as some would have you believe," he said.
"If it is felt a complementary forage is needed then the choice has to be down to the individual needs and conditions of the farm."
David Leaver, Wye College, said alternative forages were likely to increase in importance as a complement to grass silage. "But grass silage will remain the most important forage for UK dairy cows.
"The advantages of maize and whole-crop cereal silages are cost a tonne of dry matter and their high intake characteristics.
"They do not have the same high feeding value but they do have the flexibility of use for forage or grain, depending on the state of conserved forage supplies on the farm in July," said Dr Leaver.
SACs John Bax supported the flexibility argument for whole-crop cereals and said the main reason for seeking a complementary crop to grass was to guarantee consistency of forage supply.
"Recent work at Crichton Royal Farm has indicated that if quality and intake characteristics of grass silage are high, there is no animal performance benefit to be gained from the inclusion of whole-crop cereals or maize silage in the diet. But it is not possible to consistently make high quality silage and some benefits of alternative forages remain," said Mr Bax.
• Grass silage most important forage for UK dairy cows.
• When quality and intake characteristics of grass silage are high, no animal performance benefit from including whole-crop and maize in diet.
• Complementary crops to grass silage guarantee consistency of supply.
SACs John Bax… The main reason for seeking a complementary crop to grass was to guarantee consistency of forage supply.