Alternatives give pleasing performance increase
WEST Anglesey Dairy Group member Evan Evans is pleased with the improvements in cow performance alternative forages have brought.
Mr Evans, who runs 170 milkers at Erw Fawr, Llanfachraeth, tried 8ha (20 acres) of whole-crop winter wheat and 4ha (10 acres) of Italian ryegrass/stubble turnips as part of the groups review of alternative forages.
The material was clamped with grass silage on top. Over winter it was included in a complete ration with grass silage, sugar beet pulp, caustic grain and soya.
"Adding whole-crop seems to suit the cows," says Mr Evans. "It thickens up slurry, so we are using less bedding and there have been fewer feet problems. I think the figures will show that yields are up and milk fat and protein have stayed high. Using an alternative conservation crop takes the pressure off us to make a lot of good quality grass silage during a short window of opportunity in spring."
The only problem has been airborne – it has proved difficult to scare away thousands of starlings attempting to eat grain from the feed troughs.
Mr Evans is also very pleased with his trial of Italian ryegrass/stubble turnips, which were sown at the end of May and strip grazed in July and August.
"I gave cows a 200 yard long and one yard wide strip every day. They cleared the lot and the mixed crop looks like a good alternative to buffer feeding with silage, which again reduces pressure to put more in the clamp.
"The herd averages 7700 litres with 3400 litres coming from forage. I hope that finding the right combination of alternative forage crops for this farm will improve both figures."
This year, spring barley will be also ensiled as whole-crop. *
• Cows appear to benefit.
• Milk yields increased.
• Less reliant on grass silage.