28 December 2001

Rationing system detects milk changes

THE new £850k UK Feed into Milk dairy rationing system will be available to producers early next year, but some independent nutritionists question its value with established alternatives already in use.

This rationing system, funded under the LINK SLP programme, will allow milk quality changes to be predicted when changing a ration, says SAC researcher Nick Offer. "The problem is the UK rationing system cannot predict changes in milk composition.

"Producers will also see many other benefits, including a warning when a ration is likely to impair rumen function and more accurate predictions of feed intake."

To maximise these benefits, the Milk Development Council is launching a version for producers in January, says its chief executive, Kevin Bellamy. "It will be complete with a feed database and cost £10-£20."

But independent nutritionist Ivor Bending questions the pro-jects approach. "Why develop a whole new system when alternative models could have been modified at much less cost?

"The US CNCPS model is many years ahead and includes whole-farm nutrient use to monitor environmental impact. Unlike the new FIM model, it can also formulate rations for heifers and beef cattle."

But an initial review of existing systems concluded that the US model was too complex and not appropriate for many UK units feeding grass silage, says Mr Bellamy.

The FIM model includes the best bits of existing models and has been developed specifically for UK conditions, says Dr Offer. "The problem with existing models developed outside the UK is a whole new feed database will have to be created."

But Mr Bending points out that a recent ADAS project developed a UK feed database for the US CNCPS model.

Velcourt farms director, Richard Snow, is also not sure whether it is money well spent. But time will tell as the FIM model is routinely used on-farm alongside existing rationing programmes.

Testing of the FIM model is being carried out using existing data from six trials not used to develop the model, says Dr Offer. "Testing ration models with a series of trials is expensive, difficult and rarely achieves its aims."

But a close industry source is concerned about whether the model has been thoroughly validated and tested on-farm. "Where is the evidence?" he asks. &#42

Producers will benefit from the new Feed into Milk dairy rationing programme available in January, says Kevin Bellamy.

&#8226 Available in January.

&#8226 Cheap producer version.

&#8226 Adequately tested?