29 September 1995

Invaluable buffer feed

FERMENTED whole-crop barley has provided a valuable summer buffer feed and ensured grass silage has only been offered to fresh calvers at Wye College, London University, since September.

The whole-crop was not treated with additive but consolidated well. It was fed after milking, introduced up to a maximum of 10kg dry matter a cow a day, and fed alongside 4kg of maize gluten, parlour concentrate fed to lactation stage, and the limited grazing available.

But speaking at the Dairy Event launch of a Dalgety forage auditing service, Wyes Prof David Leaver admited that while the college herd has enough forage to see it through the winter with careful management, others faced a critical shorage with silage yields up to 25% lower than last year. He advised against panicking about tight winter forage stocks.

"Before taking any action, every manager should assess the adequacy of the herds own winter forage position on a dry matter basis as accurately and early as possible," he said. "Only then will it be clear whether current forage resources are sufficient to meet herd needs, or if not, how serious any shortfall is." He said moderate yielding herds would require 3.5t total DM a cow over a 200-day winter while herds averaging 8000 litres or above would require 4.5t DM a cow over that period.

"Give the milkers priority for the best forage – which is usually the silage – and over-winter youngstock on alternative rations," he said.

"Our own preference is to leave the youngstock out for as long as we can, well into November and even December, to reduce total feed costs."

Prof David Leaver: Assess your winter

forage position on a dry matter basis as accurately and early as possible.