22 September 1995

Priority is route to maintaining output

ABOUT a quarter of livestock producers will be faced with a forage shortage this winter, says feed consultant Ivor Bending.

He says that in these cases the first step should be to ensure feed goes to the most productive animals, so dry cows and milkers should be sorted into high and low feed priority.

Maize silage and high quality grass silage should only be fed to high priority animals while low priority animals can be fed to their requirements.

"Dry cows especially in the last three weeks of pregnancy must not be underfed and milkers in the first 100 days of lactation must be fed to their yield potential.

"If faced with buying in feeds, silage and hay will not be available at an economic price compared with the standard option of straw maize and gluten," says Mr Bending (see opposite).

"On most farms all cattle should be getting grazing, ad lib straw and 2kg maize gluten just to maintain condition.

"If milk proteins have fallen dramatically then cows are simply short of energy and maize gluten can be replaced with soya and dried sugar beet cereals. Cereals must be coarse ground, rolled or caustic treated.

"The high intakes possible with caustic-treated straw will reduce silage requirements substantially," he says.

For high yielders Mr Bending advises that 2kg to 3kg caustic straw a head a day should be fed and balanced with soya/rape and molasses. Low yielders could be fed up to 8kg caustic straw a day and the ration balanced with soya/rape/urea and 2kg molasses.

"But," he warns, "feeding caustic-treated products increases water intake and urine production by up to 30%, dramatically increasing straw use for bedding.

"Ammonia treated straw is an ideal solution for the lower priority animals over six months old and can be made in a clamp or treated in a stack. This can be fed ad lib if balanced with maize gluten/ blends/barley-soya mix/ compounds," says Mr Bending.

"It is not too late to make grass silage. After previous droughts, some good crops have been taken because of the heat in the soil," he adds.