High protein prices in the wake of the BSEcrisis, and the ban on the use of meat and bonemeal in all animal feeds, are escalating feed costs. What alternatives are available to help contain ration costs?Jessica Buss and Jonathan Riley report
RATIONING dairy cows more carefully should help reduce the cost of diets under pressure from increased soya prices.
Staffs Genus consultant Ian Browne acknowledges that when soya prices are low it could be increased in the ration until protein supply was sufficient. Despite recent price hikes it may still be economic to feed it for it is high in energy. But alternatives must be considered to reduce feed costs.
"The quality of protein fed must still be right, however, and must satisfy cattle requirements," he says.
Whats important is a balance of protein and energy. Ensuring an adequate supply of effective rumen degradable protein (ERDP) and undegradable digestible protein (UDP) without overfeeding crude protein should help keep costs down, he claims.
The first limiting factor in protein supply is ERDP. When insufficient it can take longer for energy to be broken down in the rumen, so reducing cow dry matter intakes.
"Producers feeding maize must supply high levels of ERDP," he says. "A simple 50:50 soya and rape mix has achieved this successfully for a few years now."
But to cheapen the ration further, Mr Browne recommends a blend of soya, rape, sunflower and groundnut can work providing sunflower and groundnut are not overfed because of high oil level.
"Check the oil in the diet. If you choose to feed high levels of a high oil product, such as palm kernel, then extra energy will be needed to combat the oil in the rumen."
Mr Browne considers protein blends a good option although these may cost a little more than buying each ingredient separately. Blends can save on storage. Feeding them is also less complicated and helps avoid overuse of any single ingredient.
For dry protein feeds, he advises offering no more than 2kg/head/day of each, except for fishmeal when 0.75kg is sufficient. Moderate protein feeds such as maize gluten and dark distillers can be fed at up to 3kg/head/day.
Wet products, such as brewers grains and distillers by-products, are also a good source of protein, he says. These may be available at reasonable cost for clamping through the summer.
Although blended high UDP protein products such as fishmeal or Amino 2000 (see table on opposite page) are expensive they may be beneficial for cows yielding in excess of 36 litres a day, he adds.
He also recommends extending the grazing season, for grass is high in ERDP, and growing autumn forage crops for energy to reduce feed costs.
"Grouping cows to avoid overfeeding those in late lactation may also have benefits," he says.
He advises being realistic about quota and avoiding over-producing.
"It may be better to feed for a flatter lactation curve and change the lactation pattern to reduce protein needs," he says.
Finally watch the market carefully, he says. "There will be bargains but know what price afford."
PROTEIN SOURCES (crude protein %/ME MJ/kg DM)
• SOYA (52%/13.5): A good balanced source of energy, ERDP and UDP.
• RAPEMEAL/SUNFLOWER: Moderate energy supplier high in ERDP, low in DUP.
• MAIZE GLUTEN (20%/13): Supplies all protein types moderately with good energy and depresses butterfat.
• MAIZE GERM (26%/14.5): Good energy supplier with moderate protein but high in oil.
• GROUNDNUT EXPELLERS (51%/13.8): ERDP and UDP in similar balance as soya but feed no more than 2kg due to oil.
• MAIZE DISTILLERS (26%/13.5): Depresses butterfat and increases milk protein a reasonable balance of energy, ERDP and UDP at around 25%CP.
• WHEAT AND BARLEY DARK DISTILLERS (30%/12.5 and 26%/12): Good starch source that can increase milk protein with balanced protein content.
• COTTON EXPELLERS (33%/12): Bulky to store and off putting to look at, it can also be oily but good protein supplier.
• WET DISTILLERS BY-PRODUCTS: Very oily an can have poor keeping qualities, but high ME.
• BREWERS GRAINS (24.5%/11.7): High in ERDP and low in fibre, a good milk yield promoter.
• MOLASSED PROTEIN SOURCES: High in ERDP and sugars, a very palatable feed (may contain urea).
• PEAS (26%/13.5) AND BEANS (28%/13.3): Moderate energy and protein level feeds that need processing and grinding before feeding. Often dont perform as well as analysis suggests.