19 September 1997


INSTALLING out-of-parlour feeders often requires few changes to the feeding system, and may prove cheaper than altering buildings to suit total mixed rations, with 90% of the benefits.

The Sadlers Genus Management nutrition consultant, Andrew Marlow, says that justifying mixer wagons may mean splitting cows into groups to take advantage of low cost straights without waste. Out-of-parlour feeders would suit units with less labour available, and would keep machinery and depreciation costs low.

Cows averaging 40 litres a day may only produce 10-12 litres from grass silage, so the energy gap must be filled with concentrates if yields are to be maintained. Feeding that concentrate in just two feeds a day can disrupt the rumen environment, reducing cow health and performance.

A balance is needed between getting a perfect mixed ration and achieving 90% of that, yet keeping costs low such as with out-of-parlour feeders.

"Out-of-parlour feeding is better than feeding concentrates twice-a-day in the parlour. It spreads concentrate load, which is becoming increasingly important where silage intakes cannot keep pace with increasing yields," says Mr Marlow.

Offering concentrate to the cow over many feeds also allows better use of the forage in the ration when overall concentrate levels are kept reasonably low, because the rumen environment is more stable.

There is also scope to reduce concentrate costs with out-of-parlour feeders by using a blend of straights which are cheaper than pelleted parlour compound. In some cases screened maize gluten may be a suitable straight to use in the feeders. &#42

Andrew Marlow… out-of-parlour feeding suits units with less labour.