Late autumn growth valuable over winter
OPTIMISING autumn grass growth will help eke out winter forage stocks, says Dr Basil Lowman of the Scottish Agricultural College.
"Although we are dependent on when the weather breaks, a late flush of grass in the autumn can be extremely valuable," he says. "It is identical, in terms of chemical composition and feed value, to spring grass. But, as with spring grass, it is so digestible that it usually passes through the cow too quickly for her to use it fully."
Although he is aware how expensive straw is, Dr Lowman believes that, at £40 to £60/t, it makes sense to make straw available to cows to help slow down the rate at which grass is digested. But it would not be an option for farmers living in an area where forage is very expensive.
"We are probably only talking about a kilo of straw a day but you will get more energy out of the grass and into the cow than otherwise. At the same time you will save about half a kilo of grass dry matter a day a cow through reduced intake. From 100 cows that is an extra days feed later in the autumn."
Dr Lowman also suggests offering straw ad lib because cow intake can also act as a very good indicator of when grass is running short. "For example, store cattle may be eating two kilos of straw a day or sucklers three kilos each a day. Suddenly they will eat more and you then know it is time to start feeding something else." *