13 December 1996

Complete diet regime is a winner all round

FEEDING sucklers and finishers a complete diet means better feed use, less work and reduced risk of respiratory concerns in farm staff.

So says Mr Dobson, who finishes progeny and breeds herd replacements from his 500 suckler cows each year.

He bought a Keenan feeder last year in an attempt to improve the efficiency of straw use and reduce the logistical headaches of feeding 500 cows and their offspring.

"Although we bale all our straw from barley, wheat, oilseed rape and beans, and some neighbours straw, we never have enough – and it can be expensive to buy-in."

In addition, Mr Dobson wanted to ensure adequate digestion of cereals, which he felt was being hampered when the ration was based on barley, beans and silage with ad-lib straw.

"Chopping straw and adding it to the ration does appear to help. It is being fed at 1.5kg a head a day to finishers, while cows receive 1.25kg a head a day, rising to 2.5kg a head a day for thin cows and heifers. Id really like to feed more straw, but the bulk would be unmanageable."

Last year, a contractor was used to chop the straw, at a cost of about £12/t. To reduce costs this year, Mr Dobson used a forage harvester to chop straw after harvest, and collected it in silage carts.