15 September 2000

Whole-crop feed to boost yield

By Marianne Curtis

A NEW method of producing whole-crop wheat and a molasses-based product aims to reduce feed costs by 0.8p/litre and help to boost herd yield by 300 litres/day on one Hants dairy unit.

Housed all year round, the 220-cow pedigree Holstein Shawford herd, owned by Sir Denis Mountain Bt, and based at Warren Farm, Morestead, averages 10,050 litres/cow, although herd manager Steve Townsend expects this figure to rise to about 12,000 litres in the next 12 months.

"Feed costs were 4p/litre, but this years whole-crop wheat and the increase in yield from 8500 litres last year spreads the cost, so it has dropped to 3.2p/litre."

This year, instead of ensiling whole-crop at about 25-30% dry matter, Mr Townsend has cut it at 75% dry matter – at the time a conventional cereal crop would be harvested. His contractors have used a forage harvester containing a grain processor which crushes wheat grains. Wheat is cut to a length of 18cm (6in) to include some straw and is treated with urea at a rate of 36kg/t.

"This whole-crop wheat contains less bulk that last years and more nutrients. Including chopped straw provides an ideal long fibre for cows being fed a high density diet. It should bring savings of 0.5p/litre on feed cost."

As well as whole-crop, feeding cows sufficient sugar is also key to maximising yield, milk quality and cow health, according to Mr Townsend. "Our previous diet contained 23% starch and 5.6% sugar and included Intermols Regumaize 44 in the total mixed ration. Although we were getting yields of 38 litres/day, the high starch level of this diet was suppressing fats and didnt help lameness."

At this point, Intermol nutritionist Phil Holder became involved in designing a molasses based product called Regumaize Hi yield which contained higher levels of available sugar and added soya oil to improve cows energy intake. "Some of the energy in this product is in the form of propylene glycol which is absorbed directly into cows blood, without being broken down in the rumen."

The concentrate portion of the new diet contains 22% starch and 8.5% sugar and Mr Townsend has seen intakes and yield rise since feeding it. "Since the switch intakes have risen from 22.8kg DM/head/day to 25.4kg. Milk yield also increased by about 3 litres/day and by as much as 10 litres/day in some fresh calvers."

Molasses also keeps the maize and whole-crop-based ration reasonably moist which is critical to maintain good intakes, says Mr Townsend. "Whenever we have let rations exceed 45% dry matter, we have noticed intakes have dropped significantly. Its like expecting us to eat cornflakes with no milk." &#42

HIGH-DENSITYDIET

&#8226 Whole-crop is 75% DM.

&#8226 Molasses product boosts sugar.

&#8226 Diet costs 3.2p/litre.

MILLEDWHOLE-CROP

&#8226 Dry matter 73.6%.

&#8226 11.5 ME.

&#8226 NDF 35.2%.

&#8226 47.5% starch.

&#8226 Crude protein 9.3%.

Whole-crop wheat 2000 (left) is a much drier affair this year at 75% DM compared with last years (right) at only 25% DM. Herd manager Steve Townsend is expecting cows to perform better on the dry whole-crop.