19 September 1997

FORAGE KEY TO PROTEIN CASH

MAINTAINING forage intakes throughout the year when cows are fed a low concentrate diet is the key to maximising income from milk protein payments.

According to DRC consultant David Roberts the most difficult year for Crichton Royal Farms Acrehead low input herd – on just 500kg of concentrates/cow a year – was 95/96 when milk proteins fell to about 3% in winter. Average milk protein for that quota year was 3.16%.

Milk protein for the 66-cow herd was low at turnout the following spring and was slow to recover in summer. Levels improved, however, in winter 96/97 and held up better the following summer.

At current milk protein payment, loss in income due to low milk proteins in 95/96 was £2439 compared with 96/97 when protein recovered to 3.33%. Now, thanks to higher proteins this summer, the herds on target to average 3.4% this year, says Dr Roberts. This will increase protein payments by a further £1007 above 96/97 levels, increasing milk income by £50 a cow on a good over a poor year.

Key to maintaining protein % is ensuring cows receive enough energy all year, says Dr Roberts.

It is vital to have enough grass for grazing in summer and unrestricted amounts of high quality forage for winter so cows achieve ad-lib intakes. He believes it is also safer to feed low input herds complementary forages that increase intakes and spread risks of poor grass silage harvest. A balanced diet is also needed, he adds.