Milk given as a result of feeding third or fourth cut silages costs on average 1-2p/litre more than that from first or second cut silage, according to Michael Marsden of ABNA.
Speaking at Advance and Thrive conference at Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, Dr Marsden said planned third and fourth cut silages were uneconomic and should be replaced with other feeds where possible. “In terms of cost per unit of ME, third and fourth cut grass silages are as expensive as brewers’ grains and soya.
“Farmers would be better off dedicating more area to either maize or whole-crop cereal silages which cost as much as £50/t of dry matter less than fourth cut grass silage. Planning to avoid producing third and fourth cut silages means inputs, such as fertiliser applications, can be avoided or reduced,” added Dr Marsden.
These costs mean forages should be seen solely as sources of energy and diet structure, as other protein sources can be bought far more cost-effectively, he added.
“The most important role of the forage portion of the diet is to provide structure in the rumen, on to which concentrates can be added. Low dry matter, short cut material provides little structure to stimulate cudding and the coating of feedstuffs in the rumen with the rumen microbes. The result is low cudding rate and hence reduced natural rumen buffering from salivation, ultimately leading to poor feed digestion and use.”
Producing slightly more mature, longer chop silage with plenty of structure means concentrates can be fed more safely and will probably achieve more reliably the milk quality required. “The goal should be to maximise the value of each litre of milk within the production target without compromising health and fertility,” explained Dr Marsden.
And this increase in silage fibre levels will allow more moist, co-product feeds into rations. “The burgeoning biofuels sector will result in increase amounts of these moist feeds being available at reasonable prices. But evaluation of these feed costs should be done in terms of relative energy and protein values, rather than just on a cost a tonne of dry matter basis,” he warned.
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