Fodder beet benefits score
Including fodder beet in the ration is boosting profits by £30 a cow on one Welsh unit. Robert Davies reports
FEEDING fodder beet is so successful at Penylan Farm, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, that it would probably not be replaced by forage maize even if the farm was less exposed.
Bill Francis and his son Peter believe in maximising production from home-grown feeds. Only straights are bought in for their 125 Holstein Friesians, which average almost 6300 litres a head.
The milkers get 1kg a head a day of mineralised maize gluten in the parlour, and the rest of their concentrate from out-of-parlour dispensers. This is mixed in a mobile mill bought second-hand for £4000. A typical blend is 50% home-grown barley, 25% soya and 25% rape meal, and currently costs £136/t.
For the first 120 days of lactation the cows get 5kg a head a day, after which the feeding rate falls to 2kg a head a day. Good quality grass silage and fodder beet are the two other components of winter rations. Silage is cut by shear-grab and is made available day and night. Fodder beet is fed at 10am at the rate of 15kg a cow.
Genus consultant Rhys Jones, who works closely with the partners, reckons that the cows take 10kg a head a day of grass silage dry matter, and 2.7kg of fodder beet dry matter.
Beet eaten first
"They love the beet and always eat it first, even when it is unwashed," says Bill Francis. "It is an excellent succulent feed for dairy cows, and I cannot understand why more farmers do not grow it."
Fed in combination with the silage, the beet is thought to boost butterfat by eight points or 0.08%, and milk protein by 14 points. This increases the price paid by Milk Marque, as from Jan 1, by 0.801p/litre. On a yield of 6239 litres the extra production is worth £49.97 a cow.
But extra butterfat does affect the herds quota profile. Mr Jones calculates that an extra 1.44% of milk quota a cow has to be leased to cover the extra fat yield. At 13p/litre, expenditure on the additional 90 litres needed a cow is £11.70/year.
As it costs £82 to produce each tonne of fodder beet dry matter, or £12/t more than grass silage DM, feeding 2.7kg of beet DM a cow a day increases the 180-day winter feed bill by £5.83 a cow.
Replacing some silage with fodder beet also means that extra protein has to be fed to balance the 9% lower crude protein content of the beet. This works out at 30g a cow a day, which costs £2.43 a cow over winter.
All the extra charges total £19.96 a cow, leaving a net benefit from feeding fodder beet of £30.01 a cow.
"If we grew maize we would have to sow enough to supply at least one-third of the forage ration, which would mean harvesting at least 40 acres each year, rather than around 12 acres of fodder beet," says Peter Francis. "The smaller area fits in with our rotation, and I doubt whether we would switch to forage maize even if the farm was less exposed."
Peter Francis feeds his cows their daily 15kg of fodder beet – about 2.7kg dry matter – at 10am each morning. The beet is stored on a concrete apron adjacent to the silage clamp.
Farm-grown solution to quality
IMPROVING herd output is the long-term aim, but the Francises are not prepared to chase milk with the feed bucket. Bulls are selected for improved total milk and protein yields, but high priority is also given to the ability to utilise farm-grown forages. The current margin over the 1200kg a cow of concentrate fed is £1290 a head. Thanks to the inclusion of fodder beet, milk quality in January was an excellent 4.43% butterfat and 3.55% protein, and the milk price was 26.5p/litre.
Mr Francis is convinced of the value of beet where the crop can be harvested in good condition. A very heavy dressing of slurry is applied before ploughing out of grass in April. Sowing takes place around May 1, and the partners now use the variety Bolero because, they say, it sits on top of the ground.
In the past the crop was lifted using the farms own harvester. Now it is harvested by a contractor using a top lifter to minimise the amount of soil on the roots, and stored on a concrete apron adjacent to the silage clamp.n
• The cows like it.
• Lifts milk quality.
• Takes up less land.
Forages help keep protein on target
MILK protein of 3.5% is being maintained in a dairy herd using only 2kg of concentrates a day for early lactation cows and just 0.5kg for those in late lactation. Both diets are supplemented with a molasses/urea mix.
The secret is complementary forages – whole-crop barley and fodder beet – being used in a nitrogen and energy efficiency experiment at the Scottish Agricultural Colleges Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries.
The whole-crop barley yielded 10.6t/ha of dry matter (4.3t/acre) and the fodder beet 12t/ha (4.9t/acre). Slurry from the Acrehead dairy unit was the only fertiliser. The barley received one low-rate fungicide spray and an application of manganese, while the beet had two herbicide sprays, each at 20% of the full application rate.
"There is no doubt that alternative or complementary forages have a role to play. They provide a route to maintaining milk quality without increasing levels of purchased feed," says John Bax who is in charge of the Scottish Office-funded experiment in the low input herd at Acrehead.
"One of the potential problems with low inputs of concentrates is that milk quality can suffer. Our target yield in this herd is 5500kg, so the peak is never much more than 30kg a cow a day.
"At that level we are maintaining milk protein at 3.48%, and it has been over 3.5% using these low levels of concentrates alongside the whole-crop barley and fodder beet. Maintaining milk quality is vital for 57% of our milk price comes from protein. These forages are playing an important role in meeting milk quality targets," says Mr Bax.n
No effect from
ADDITIONAL supplies of the amino acids methionine and lysine to mid-lactation dairy cows at grass has no effect on milk yield or protein.
So says Dr John Murphy, Teagasc, Moorepark, Co Cork. He used 52 cows and heifers split into supplemented and unsupplemented groups for a seven-week study.
Amino acids were supplied to the supplemented group in a rumen protected form with 0.25kg of molassed sugar beet pulp. This aimed to give cows the optimum level of the two amino acids, as previously determined in French studies. Yet these mid-lactation animals showed no increase in milk yield or protein when at grass.
Sugar beet pulp was also fed to the control group but without added amino acids. *
Amino acid supplement trial results