26 September 1997

Forage and cereals call for clever balancing act

MAXIMISING use of plentiful forage and cheap cereals requires careful ration balancing.

So warned KW nutritionist Steve Wheatley, who said that although falling milk prices might tempt producers to rely more on forages and cereals, rations must be balanced to avoid long-term concerns such as poor fertility.

"Protein is vital when feeding plenty of cereals. However, soya has become more expensive as increasing worldwide demand has pushed priced up to about £230/t. With reduced cost in mind, producers should look at alternatives."

Ground nut, which was a popular protein source 30 years ago, is making a comeback as better processing methods mean it is now safe to feed in rations – concerns over toxins meant it had become regarded as unreliable in the past.

"It is not the cheapest source of protein, but at about £200/t in pellet form it provides 52% protein in the dry matter," said Dr Wheatley.

High protein blends and the companys Vitagold, a moist distillery produced feed, providing 43% protein, are also worth considering, he said.

Where rations are dependant on forage, feeding more bypass protein would help increase milk yield and protein, said Cargills Wes Ewing. "Soypass is available at £330/t – less than fishmeal, which is currently trading at £400/t or more."

Forage intakes could also be stimulated by the addition of molasses based products, according to Dr Ewing. "These will boost palatability."

Available for the first time this year, Extra Spice, from Intermol is a mix of molasses with a coconut essence, trading for £60-65/t, said company nutritionist Phil Holder.

But for producers who are not relying on home-grown cereals, or lack processing capacity, starch-based feeds are a good buy this year, says Dr Wheatley.

Ill tell you what I want, what I really, really want… Spice up the winter rations, and increase forage intakes by using molasses with coconut essence, says Intermol.