14 November 1997

Non-soya protein might prove a big money saver

By Jessica Buss

ELIMINATING soya from the winter ration could save one Devon farm £4000 this winter.

Patrick and Graeme Cock have selected alternative protein sources to back up the 40% maize diet of their 290 summer calving cows averaging 26 litres a day, 120 days into lactation.

They have opted for maize distillers and rapemeal fed alongside caustic wheat. This provides a concentrate mix of 13 ME and 27% crude protein, at £110/t including minerals.

A cows daily ration includes 3kg of maize distillers, 3kg rapemeal, 2kg caustic wheat, and 5kg dry matter of maize silage, with grass silage and grazed grass supplying 6-7kg DM. The ration is fed as a complete diet with no concentrates offered in the parlour.

Rape and distillers are delivered in a 50:50 mix, bulk tipped, to simplify feeding and reduce feed costs, adds Patrick Cock.

According to the Cocks Axient consultant Ian Samuel, this diet is saving 8p a cow a day, compared with an equivalent diet with soya, which would need more cereal to balance it. That saving could be worth £4000 this winter.

Mr Cock says he decided against using soya this summer when its price fell out of line with other protein feeds. "Soya is a good energy and protein feed but proved dear in terms of energy." He also believed fishmeal was too expensive.

The return from a ration with soya and fishmeal was unlikely to be economic now that they were not pushing cows for yield as they were two years ago when milking three times a day, he explains. Cow yields have now fallen 700 litres to 7650 litres with 3910 litres from forage and a feed rate of 0.23kg/litre. Cows may not be maximising potential yields with this winter ration, but he hopes it will prove more economic.

When feeds were forward contracted in the summer maize distillers was a good value alternative to soya and it was also high in energy and higher in digestible undegradable protein (DUP) than many other protein feeds. Maize distillers should also depress milk fat%, which will save on quota, he adds.

He had used maize distillers successfully before and had confidence in its feed value. Rapemeal was chosen to complete the diet because it is rumen degradable and is complementary to the maize silage in the ration.

But Mr Samuel warns that when feeding maize distillers at this rate, silage must be dry, with a good protein content. A diet containing wet silage would benefit from other sources of protein. Distillers are also high in oil and the total oil level in the ration must be considered. It is for this reason that he suggests restricting maize distillers fed to 3kg a cow.

Maize distillers and rape could save Patrick Cock about £4000 this winter.