26 March 1999

Irish redress balance

FEEDING whole-crop cereals to dairy cows in early lactation is helping Irish producers reduce the effects of a negative energy balance after calving.

Irish consultant Pat OBryne told producers that feeding whole-crop cereals can help address a cows negative energy balance in five weeks after calving compared to 12 weeks when at grass. With an ME of 11.3 and dry matter of 40% or more whole-crop stimulates appetite, helping meet demand for maintenance and rising milk yields after calving.

During lactation whole-crop continues to be a low cost energy feed, he said. Typically, a ration of 4.5kg DM each of grass silage and whole-crop, 2.5kg DM fodder beet, 6.6kg concentrate and some minerals is sufficient for maintenance plus 18 litres of milk daily. Feed cost for using this ration is 7p/litre.

While whole-crop at £45-£55/t DM can be attractive compared with grass at £75-£85/t DM, be aware that its quality can vary.

just as much as grass silage. "But look at what can be achieved with good quality whole-crop and judge whether it is for you," he advised.

Although a versatile buffer ration, avoid feeding it alongside winter grass which is high in protein if lameness is to be avoided, particularly in high yielding cows, he warned.