1 August 1997

Winter strategy rethink on feed recommended

By Jessica Buss

CONSIDER maize and cereal harvesting options carefully in the light of plentiful forage supplies for winter and low prices for cereals, straights, and other by-products.

Thats the advice to dairy and beef producers, whose stock are also benefiting from good grass growth which will leave some fitter than normal and reduce winter feed requirements.

With ample stocks of grass silage, and maize growing well, Genus Management nutrition consultant Diana Allen suggests cutting maize higher than usual to increase energy density and reduce bulk. At the extreme, taking just cobs for ground ear maize will produce a high energy concentrate feed.

Her Dorset-based colleague Quentin Straghan cites northern European studies to show that lifting maize cutting height from the traditional 10cm (4in) to 40cm (16in) increases ME from 11.1 to 11.6, and reduces dry matter yield by 8%. There is also less risk of soil contamination.

Lifting the cutting height to 80cm (32in) increases ME to 12.2 with a 15% loss of DM yield. SAC beef specialist Basil Lowman suggests beef producers with large stocks of average quality silage harvest home-grown cereals as grain in preference to whole-crop. This will allow finishing animals to have their silage ration improved by supplementing it with high energy grain, while silage rations of spring calving sucklers can be diluted with straw.

Where producers have not harvested cereals for whole-crop, midlands ADAS dairy consultant David Levick also advises harvesting wheat conventionally, but points out that grain storage and pre-feeding treatment, such as milling or caustic treating, typically costs £15/t. Crimping grain is also an option where grain storage is not available. But Mr Levick stresses that it is still more economic to buy in ready-to-use feeds.

"Using cheaper feeds this winter could save 1.5p a litre of milk on feed costs, with up to 2.5p a litre possible. Many feeds are high in energy and so can also increase milk protein % and milk price."

An example is bread waste, which is competitively priced at under £50/t with good availability nationwide. It is a good energy feed for dairy cows, sucklers and growing beef animals, but must be fed carefully, he cautions, to avoid yeast fermentation and drunk animals.

This 65% DM feed at £50/t would be equivalent to buying wheat treated and ready to feed at £66/t – so saving £20/t.

However, bread waste has a higher feed value than wheat, at 14 ME, and because its starch is cooked it is more available to stock. Its crude protein content is similar to wheat at 12%.

PROFITABLE RATIONS

&#8226 Increase maize cutting heights.

&#8226 Harvest cereals conventionally.

&#8226 Some straight and by-product feeds cheaper than cereals.