9 March 2001

Practical tips to eke out dwindling forage stocks

By Jeremy Hunt and Jessica Buss

ALTHOUGH vets advise keeping dairy stock inside to reduce risks of foot-and-mouth spread, in low risk areas grazing animals for a couple of hours a day could eke out dwindling forage stocks.

Devon vet Richard Sibley believes that cows are being saved from foot-and-mouth infection because they are currently inside and effectively in isolation.

"The number of cattle in the outbreak is currently small, but the disease is more serious in cows than sheep and pigs. Once outside cows will meet with sheep and become exposed to airborne infection.

"When there is enough forage keep cows inside, especially when the unit is within 20 miles of an infected farm."

However, where they feel it is safe to do so, producers may ease pressure on forage by turning stock out with foot-and-mouth concerns making deliveries difficult, says Jo Baggaley, northern-based Promar consultant.

"Silage stocks are getting short on many dairy farms. Where the ground conditions will allow, producers could save up to 3kg/dry matter intake/day by turning stock out to graze for a short period. This may increase daily milk yields by two litres/cow."

Buying in potatoes from other farms to bulk-up winter rations is no longer an option, but brewers grains, although difficult to source in some areas, should be considered.

"If the foot-and-mouth outbreak persists and movement restrictions are in place for several weeks, producers with low silage stocks should be looking ahead and trying to buy-in bulk feed like grains," she says.

Although straw is also running low on many farms, it does offer an alternative to silage for in-calvers.

"Take advice on rations but it is possible to switch in-calvers on to a diet of straw and concentrates, plus minerals. Providing the energy level of the ration is adequate straw can substitute silage stocks that are more urgently needed for milking cows."

Cheshire-based independent feed consultant Paul Findley advises producers concerned about silage stocks to dry-off stale or problem cows early. "Its also worth filling feed storage up to capacity," he adds. &#42

Turning out cows for a short period in low risk areas could save 3kg DM/ cow/day in silage, says Jo Baggaley.

FORAGECRISIS

&#8226 Eke out stocks.

&#8226 Consider early grazing.

&#8226 Straw and concentrate alternative.