High protein forage key to maintaining intakes

21 November 1997

High protein forage key to maintaining intakes

Restricting concentrate use

and providing high quality

forage as part of a carefully

managed ration is how one

Berks farm is reducing feed

costs a litre. Jessica Buss


FEEDING low volumes of a high protein concentrate, in a balanced winter ration, maximises forage intakes and allows cows to produce 5386 litres from forage on one Berkshire unit.

Zenecas Jealotts Hill Farm, Bracknell, has followed this system for 10 years with cows fed a maximum of 3kg/day of 40% crude protein purchased concentrate. Home-grown grain is also fed, up to maximum of 1.5kg/day to bring total concentrate use to 600kg a cow a year to support an average yield of 6638 litres.

Farm manager Angus Golightly explains that yield a cow in its own right has never been the 140-cow units main objective.

"Margin a litre is more important under the current quota system. But that doesnt stop at margin over feed costs – we look at every single cost divided by the basic litres sold."

The farms total feed cost a litre is just under 7p, including charges for fertiliser, grass fieldwork and contractors, and a concentrate cost of 2.02p a litre.

Although yield a cow has increased due to genetic improvement, the aim is to maximise production from forage.

Herd manager Mark Osman says that the key to optimising a cows yield is getting as much food into her as possible. He believes the type of feed is of little importance provided the forage is high quality. All the farms forages analyse over 11 ME, and adequate supplies are always available (see analysis table below).

Intakes after housing for the July/August calving cows, averaging 27.5 litres, and gaining weight, are 23.5kg of dry matter a day – with 4.5kg of concentrate (3kg purchased and 1.5kg home-grown) and 3kg of ground ear maize at 60% DM. Summer calved heifers, grouped separately, are yielding 19 litres a day and eating 19kg DM a day with just 4kg of concentrates – these are also gaining weight. A group of January/February calvers is fed separately.

Mr Osman offers cows three forages, fed as a mixed ration, to stimulate intakes in winter. The ration includes grass, maize and red clover silage. Ground ear maize is considered as a concentrate feed.

The diet is balanced to provide 18-19% crude protein, using the high protein concentrate and high protein (19%) red clover silage. The concentrate includes soya, rapemeal, sunflower, molasses, urea and minerals and is 11.5 ME.

"When the cows are performing well, we cut back on concentrates. We are always trying to feed 10% less concentrate rather than add more.

"But it is important that the mix is kept the same and increases or decreases are made by whole cow increments, not by changing an individual ingredient," says Mr Osman.

Changes to the feed mix unsettle cow intakes and that is reflected in milk sales. When intakes are stable, however, bulk milk sales fluctuate very little, he adds.

Cow condition at calving is also important to support minimal concentrate feeding. Mr Osman aims to calve cows at a condition score of three because these cows need body reserves to milk off their backs in early lactation. When necessary cows are dried off early to gain condition before getting close to calving.

Accurate daily feeding is also required. Cows must be offered enough feed but without waste. Mr Osman does not overfeed by 10% to maximise intakes, as nutritionists recommend, because cows waste little of the high quality feed.

"Each Monday feed troughs are cleaned out and only 250kg of waste is collected from the 42t fed – less than 1%.

"Silage clamp and feeding management are important, with 15-20min spent tidying up and sheeting over clamps every day. Every litre of milk produced comes from those clamps so the feeding management must be right," explains Mr Osman. A shear bucket keeps the silage faces cleaner than a shear grab – 10% of feed can be wasted in the yard with a grab, he adds.

Achieving high yields from forage in winter requires a mix of three forages and a small volume of concentrate, according to Angus Golightly (left) and Mark Osman.

Winter rations for summer calvers in 1997


(kg/head) (kg/head)

Grass silage2220

Maize silage17.515

Red clover silage2.53

Ground ear maize3-

40% protein conc.33

Ground grain1.51


Intakes achieved23.519

Forage and feed analysis

GrassMaizeRed cloverGround

silagesilage(3rd cut)ear maize

Dry matter %31334957


ME (MJ/kg DM)12.1111113+

CP %15.510.4199.5


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