16 January 1998

Forage debate hides real issue: Feed efficiency

By Allan Wright

THE forage versus concentrate debate is pulling the dairy industry apart and preventing it adopting the best practices and expertise available.

Hugh Kerr of Keenan told the Semex conference in Glasgow on Monday that feed efficiency is important. "Why should dairying be different from pig and poultry production? What matters is how efficiently you get cows to change feed into a saleable product the market wants to buy."

Dairy farmers should not get hung up on a concept, but get back to basics and use resources that were available and suited the farmers business and aspirations.

"Concentrates are the part of the ration on which we have been brainwashed into spending too much time and money monitoring and managing. That is because it is seen as the biggest cost that can be controlled, so we have in-parlour feeders, out-of-parlour feeders and computerisation all the way.

"Feed companies and advisory bodies have perpetuated monitors, such as margin over concentrates a cow and a litre. They are good measures of concentrate inputs, but no real use in assessing profitability," said Mr Kerr.

The most important figure was kg of milk a kg of dry matter intake. The target was 1.5:1, but most units were achieving 1.2:1.

Feed efficiency is more important than the dairy industry debate over forage versus concentrates, says Keenans Hugh Kerr.

FEED EFFICIENCY

&#8226 Use whats available.

&#8226 Kg milk:kg dry matter intake.

&#8226 Reconsider what concentrate is.