14 March 1996

Concentrate at turnout

WHEN reducing concentrate fed to dairy cows at turnout, do so gradually and switch to one that is high in digestible fibre.

Dorset-based Genus nutrition consultant James Shenton says the concentrate level depends on calving date and yield but should be below 5-6kg when cows are fully out.

"Gradually phase both concentrates and forage out over a fortnight to allow the rumen to adjust to the grass."

The concentrate fed should be high in digestible undegradeable protein (DUP) with 20% crude protein, and high in minerals to compensate for the low levels of concentrate fed. A high magnesium level will help prevent staggers.

"Cows need digestible fibre as an energy source to reduce scouring," says Mr Shenton, who suggests decreasing cereal-based concentrate in favour of sugar beet pulp types. But some starch is still needed, and as grass quality and sugar level drops increase the starch level again, he advises. "Continuing to feed maize silage balances the high protein grass well. But at turnout try to restrict the level fed to 3kg of dry matter to prevent substitution when enough grass is available." &#42

Reduce concentrates gradually before turnout, and switch to one high in digestible fibre with high mineral levels, says James Shenton.