4 September 1998

Supplementary feeding must be continued

UPLAND producers face inc-reased winter feed bills to compensate for poor-quality forages, but there are low-cost alternatives to consider, says Morpeth-based Signet consultant Mike Wigmore.

He says northern producers are already supplementing grazing and forage diets to get stock finished. On some Cumbrian farms, silage aftermaths are ankle deep, but poor quality grass and cold weather means stock wont thrive on it.

"Supplementary feeding must continue through autumn and winter," he says. "Theres a lot of forage in store, but its poor quality."

To maintain production, on-farm mill-and-mixers can exploit low-cost cereals, with barley about £70/t. As a guide, he says lambs will finish quickly on 0.5kg/ head/day (1.1lb/head/day), while store cattle can be maintained on 1kg/head/day (2.2lb/head/day).

Alternative feeds are available and he urges livestock farmers to buy early to make the most of wet distillers grains. These are a high-energy feed and supplies are cheap in early season at about £15/t, but supply soon dries up and prices quickly rise by £10/t.

Bulk loads of brewers grains at £14/t, maize gluten at £65/t and sugar beet pulp are cheap options, but wont suit all stock, he warns. These are bulky feeds and some sheep arent big eaters.

Where this is the case, it may be better to use a proprietary concentrate to ensure adequate intakes.

With supplies of good quality hay from the south fetching £90/t, making best use of forage in store remains a priority. "Straw can be fed to spring-calving sucklers, but autumn-calvers need quality forage to continue milking." &#42