Excess rain plus a lack of sunshine hours are going to make winter feeding tricky this year. Some clamps may be full, but not necessarily with quality – and many maize crops are unlikely to deliver a safety net.
Derbyshire contractor Tim Wright estimates maize crops are 25% down in volume, as five weeks of rain in mid-June left maize sat in cold, wet seed-beds. It looks, therefore, like this winter’s extra milk income could be spent on bought-in feeds, so it is vital to assess feed stocks now and plan for the coming winter, says Staffordshire consultant Ian Browne. He estimates up to 3p/litre could be swallowed up in feed costs, unless farmers have deals on forward contracts.
“Be honest. Assess what you have, then what you are likely to have. See what the problem is, then start balancing the books.
Nutritionist Chris Savery of The Dairy Group says quotes for bought feed should be obtained soon. “Prices won’t be held for long. There are shortages of brewers’ grains and increased demand for bread waste. Energy-related feeds have higher prices. Don’t be tempted to control costs by opting for a lower spec feed – paying less for something probably means it’s not up to scratch.”
He also reminds producers to preserve what forages they already have. Improving clamp management at feed out will avoid spoilage and secondary fermentation. “Also have silage analysed to get an idea of the material in clamps.”
Mr Browne is seeing clamps full of bulk and dry matter, but not energy. Yet high yielding herds need more. “When high yielding cows are underfed, fertility can suffer. Feed them correctly, or the consequences will last into next year. It may help to send some stock off the farm, or overwinter them on crops such as stubble turnips or forage rape.”
High yielders should be prioritised and given the best feed to avoid long-term consequences, agrees Mr Savery. While grass growth may get a boost in September, these cows need a good solid ration, particularly when they have been buffer fed all summer, he adds. “They are coming up to peak and need to get back in-calf. Use grazing for low yielders instead. Cows close-to-calving should also be properly fed to avoid calving problems and metabolic upsets in early lactation.”
Leigh end farm, tewkesbury, gloucestershire