Maximising dry matter intakes is the name of the game on any dairy farm but, for Lockerbie farmer David Kincaid, ration heating resulted in a significant reduction in intakes, equivalent to a daily drop in yields of three litres a cow.
“In the hot months of July and August we were experiencing serious problems with TMR stability at feeding out. The ration was heating up significantly after a few hours in the trough and putting cows off eating.”
TMR heating can be a serious problem when ambient temperature are high or when moist feeds are included in the mix, says Jim Howie of ED and F Man.
“In some cases, feed only needs to be left out for a few hours and moulds start to form. This will affect the smell of the feed, depressing feed intakes. Often this wasted feed will be left for the next day and more added on top, making the problem even worse.”
TMRs can heat up as a result of microbes and yeasts colonising the ration and fermenting away sugars and starches, thus reducing the nutritional value of the feed.
And with the aim at Slacks Farm to feed the 500-cow herd once a day, this was not acceptable, says Mr Kincaid. “Cows were leaving 50-60% of the ration after eight hours, which is hugely costly considering we were losing 2-3 litres a cow a day in milk.” The farm was also forced to feed every 12 hours to compensate for these problems.
A ready-mixed feed stabiliser is cost-effective, says David Kincaid.
And reduced feed intake as a result of overheating not only reduces milk yields, but can also have implications on body condition, according to Mr Howie.
With this in mind, Mr Kincaid decided to use a feed stabiliser at mixing. “We have used feed additives in the past, but with mixed success. Most products out there simply don’t work. We got on well with dried propionic acid salt, but it is expensive.”
The farm now uses propionic acid and surfactant ready mixed with their molasses supply. The treated molasses is then included as usual in the TMR which includes a concentrate blend and grass and whole-crop silage.
“The molasses stabiliser mix works just as well as dry propionic acid salt and is less expensive. Now we have no wastage and we are able to feed out once a day with no problems, reducing labour costs.”
Milk yields have also been maintained and the herd is achieving 8500 litres a cow a year.
The ready-mixed molasses is not only more convenient than adding a dry propionic salt at mixing, but is also more cost effective, says Mr Howie.
“A dry propionic acid salt powder costs about 10-12p a cow a day compared to combining the acid with molasses, which costs about 2.5p, excluding the cost of the molasses.”
But Mr Howie stresses, these benefits will only be seen when ration heating is a problem. “When heating at feed out is an issue, then feeding a stabiliser ready mixed with molasses could be the answer and you will see the benefits,” he says.