5 July 2002

Take care if

extra cereals fed…

Following its cancellation last year, this years Royal

Show was a welcome opportunity for livestock producers

to catch up with the latest research and new

developments. FWs livestock team reports

POOR first cut silage quality is forcing milk producers to consider feeding more cereal or making high quality second cut silage to boost ration energy levels this winter.

Keenan nutritionist Heffin Richards told producers at the show that care was needed when feeding high levels of cereals. "Low cereal prices will tempt many to add extra in the ration to compensate for poor silage."

But feeding more than 5-6kg of rolled cereal with wet acidic silage will lead to excess rumen acid loading, he warned. However, this risk can be minimised by ensuring there is adequate straw or other long fibre in the ration to stimulate chewing and saliva production to buffer acid.

Fibrous energy feeds, such as sugar beet pulp and citrus pulp, are also useful as a complement for cereal-based rations where starch levels are high.

Mr Richards also believes the way cereal is processed influences how much can be safely fed in dairy rations. Mixing quickly fermentable rolled wheat with more slowly fermented caustic-treated whole wheat can help maximise cereal inclusion.

"While both are based on wheat, they are different feeds. Treated whole grains, such as caustic and urea treated wheat, are more rumen-friendly than processed dry cereals."

However, Notts-based Promar consultant Robert Burcham advises producers to consider making extra fermented whole-crop to balance grass silage. "But ensure it is not chopped too finely when replacing straw in the ration, aim for a chop length of about 4-5cm to maintain long fibre levels.

"Making extra whole-crop will also ensure plenty of winter forage. Although some clamps may appear full, there could be less than expected. Be wary when assessing silage stocks that silage analysis results reflect what is in the clamp," said Mr Burcham.

Alternatively, Mark Smith, who helps manage Genus Moet herd, believes making high quality second and third cut silage is a solution. "Quantity is not the problem on some units with a heavy first cut.

"Harvesting a second cut early, at six weeks, can boost quality. A small clamp of high quality silage can help balance the poorer first cut." But Mr Smith warned that earlier cutting without adjusting fertiliser applications could lead to high nitrate levels.

"Also consider using a silage additive for subsequent silage cuts, as it can improve fermentation and produce a more palatable silage. Cows eating more silage will help compensate for low silage quality."

"Cows eating a silage with 0.5MJ/kg DM less metabolisable energy only need to eat 0.5kg/day more silage to maintain the same overall energy intake," added Mr Smith. &#42

BALANCING POOR SILAGE

* Mixture of cereals.

* Good second cut.

* Stimulate intakes.

&#8226 Mixture of cereals.

&#8226 Good second cut.

&#8226 Stimulate intakes.

Care will be needed when feeding extra cereal to supplement poor quality silage, warns Heffin Richards.