Plan winter dairy diets now to avoid problems

Planning winter dairy diets now is vital to ensure cost effective and well-constructed diets are fed this winter.

That’s according to Keenan Systems’ Peter Crawford ,who stresses that forage shortages will make diet construction a challenge. There are still several options open to dairy farmers, he says.

“With recent rain, prospects for third cut have improved and there is no reason why a good quality feed can not be produced. For many farmers whole-crop is still an option, although the recent rise in wheat prices means standing crops will be more expensive.”

The sooner farmers make a realistic assessment of total potential forage stocks, the sooner they can make informed decisions about what purchased feeds are required.”

Where forages need bulking up Mr Crawford suggests straw as an option. “Although straw prices are high, remember that 1kg of straw replaces 3kg of silage and be valuable in preserving stocks. Feeding 1.5kg of straw a day to 200 cows will save 27t of silage a month.”

There is also a place for moist feeds this year, particularly pressed pulp which is a good energy source and will complement straw in diets. “Products such as wheat distillers will be available but prices are currently high, so shop around.”

Purchased feed prices are currently strong but as yet supply of dry feeds does not appear to be an issue so farmers should be able to get the ingredients they require.

“Inevitably many diets will contain a wider range of ingredients this winter, and while it will be possible to construct nutritionally sound diets it will be vital to make sure the diets are correctly mixed to maximise intakes and feed efficiency.

“A correctly mixed diet will ensure a consistent feed is supplied to the rumen, leading to improved digestibility, better nutrient absorption and greater feed efficiency. Our research confirms that a gentle tumbling action, combined with non-aggressive processing of feeds and a length of mixing tailored to the ingredients in the diet can increase feed efficiency by over 7%.

“With forages likely to be in short supply it is essential farmers maximise the litres of milk produced per kg of dry matter fed,” Mr Crawford concludes.

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