9 February 1996

Reduced milk fat pays off for Dane

Maize Growers Association members debated the pros and cons of whole-crop cereal production and its feed value at Myerscough College, Garstang, Lancs, last week. Harry Hope reports

BEING able to reduce milk fat has allowed one Danish dairy producer to carry an extra five cows within his milk quota. At current prices this is worth up to £1500 a cow after feed costs.

Poul Villumsen carries 60 milkers and followers on the mixed 142ha (350-acre) Vordegaard family farm, Viborg, where cropping includes 8ha (20 acres) of whole-crop wheat, cash crop cereals, forage maize, fodder beet, peas and oilseed rape. Grass is confined to 24/ha (60 acres).

Since 1990 cows have been fed a complete diet once a day and in that time yields have risen from 8263 to 9313 litres with protein lifted from 3.22 to 3.52% and fat reduced from 4.24 to 3.76%.

Mr Villumsen said: "A combination of ingredients including grass and maize silage, whole-crop cereal, fodder beet and protein supplements mean we can now manipulate milk protein to considerable extent. Overall, the chance to shift milk compositional quality is worth £80 to £90 a cow."

He likes whole-crop forage, for he can conserve the crop in one day. The dry matter yield is usually higher than from maize and the ability to grow and harvest whole-crop forage with existing farm machinery appeals to him. "At £254/ha, the EU acreage subsidy on whole-crop cereals is also a big attraction in Denmark."

He treats cereals for forage like a conventional grain cash crop and short-strawed varieties are used to increase the grain head and feed energy content. Absence of effluent and the chance to clamp in the field if required, is also rated highly.

He advises cutting at 35-40% dry matter for maximum yield and digestibility, followed by prompt compaction and sealing with plastic sheet weighted down securely with sand, not old tyres.

"My experience is that additives are unnecessary to preserve whole-crop unless it is cut when too dry and mature. I do not know a single farmer who uses urea or any other additive to make whole-crop forage in Denmark.

Whole-crop forage can complement grass silage in areas which are marginal for maize.