8 December 1995

High DM intakes bring top results

HIGH dry matter intakes are considered essential to make cows perform to their genetic potential on one Leicestershire herd.

ADAS consultant Mark Roach has designed a ration to allow ad-lib feed intakes based on the forage stocks available on Ken Egglestons Hollytree Farm, Long Clawson.

The amount of silage made in Ag-bags and the number of stock to be fed from them was forecast in the summer.

Because of low silage stocks, 24ha (60 acres) of wheat were harvested as fermented whole-crop. In addition barley and wheat straw was bought for feeding the cows in late winter.

Mr Roach recommends offering cows 105% of the feed they are expected to eat for maximum dry matter intakes. But it is also important to reduce waste. Therefore feed left in the trough each morning goes to young stock.

Mr Eggleston believes that to achieve optimum intakes fresh feed must be readily available to the summer calvers at all times.

"Our feed passage is 17ft wide so we can drive down it without running on the feed," he says. "It also allows feed to be pushed up easily with a bale of straw on the front of the loader."

"The ADAS-style feed barrier ensures cows stand about 9in further forward so reaching feed more easily."

"The diet is put out from the mixer wagon once a day. But it is pushed up four times a day which keeps the cows interested."

Mr Roach believes that providing enough feed is put out there is no bonus in feeding out twice a day.

Only when the ration is not pushed up for the cows is it beneficial to feed more than once a day.

An important part of ensuring the Hollytree herd performs to prediction is monitoring production.

Mr Eggleston is just starting to use lactation monitoring curves and hopes his computer will also help keep tabs on yields.

Cows are also condition scored about once a month and here Mr Eggleston appreciates an outside opinion. He finds it tricky to pick up changes in condition when hes with the cows on a day-to-day basis.

&#8226 Farm size: 146ha (360 acres) owned, 16ha (40 acres) grass keep.

&#8226 Cropping: 91ha (225 acres) wheat, 14ha (35 acres) maize and grass.

&#8226 Stocking: 150 dairy cows and 150 youngstock.

&#8226 Cow ration: 4.9kg dry matter (DM) of fermented whole-crop wheat, 3.1 kg DM maize silage, 2.6kg DM grass silage, molasses, Megalac and a 27% crude protein blend.

&#8226 Cow performance: 7430 litres a cow off 2.7t concentrates/cow to leave a margin over concentrates of £1482/cow.

Feed is pushed up easily with a bale of straw on the front of the loader.