Self-feeding mix proves to be protein winner
By Jessica Buss
PROVIDING protein with maize silage in a simple self-feeding system without troughs has been achieved by mixing rapemeal with the crop during clamping.
Andrew Stevens, Leaze Farm, Lechlade, Glos, decided to try mixing rapemeal with maize in the pit, having heard that some producers in Britanny were trying it.
Maize is well suited to Leaze Farm as grass growth declines during dry summers. Mr Stevens main priority is to grow enough grass to feed the autumn calving herd without any buffer feeding and to only make a first cut of silage: A second cut is deemed too expensive, typically costing £50-60/t dry matter.
This leaves 38ha (95 acres) on which maize can be grown to supply winter feed for the 265-cow herd. On average maize costs £30/t dry matter to grow and harvest, he says.
"Only being able to self-feed silage and feed concentrates in parlour meant we were losing out compared with farms feeding a mixed ration. They are able to buy protein more competitively as straights."
Some UK producers have tried adding urea to maize clamps as a source of protein, but Mr Stevens believed this was too risky when cows self-feed silage.
"A lump of urea wouldnt do a cow any good, but a lump of rape shouldnt do any harm," he explains.
He admits mixing in rapemeal was crude. "Rape was mixed in as maize was clamped. Using a long ramp, we drove up and down with a bucket, tipping rape out on the maize." A total of 50t was mixed into two clamps, about 200kg of rape a cow.
"This means buying rapemeal for the whole winter at once. Its not risk free; if maize is too dry there would be problems with rape going mouldy."
He believes its important to cut maize at 28-30% dry matter to provide enough moisture and acid to soak into dry rapemeal. "There is some mould at the clamp top, so next year we wont put rape close to the clamp surface."
Of little concern
But a small amount of waste is of little concern. "There is scope for some inefficiency with rapemeal costing only about £70/t." Thats much less than the 50% rapemeal, 40% soya mix also being fed this winter at over £130/t, with double inclusion of vitamins and minerals. Extra vitamins and minerals are required because it is only fed at 3.5kg a cow/day. A further 1.5kg a cow/day of rapemeal is provided mixed with maize.
Cows receive an allowance of 12.5kg maize DM a day. Grass silage is fed ad-lib, with cows currently eating 4.6kg DM a day.
When self-feeding two different feeds, cows can show preference for one or the other. But Mr Stevens is less concerned about this now some protein is available directly with maize, helping ensure all cows eat a balanced diet.
• No trough required.
• Protein fed with silage.
• Lower concentrate price/t.
Mixing rapemeal with maize silage for self-feeding is proving an easy
way to provide cows with protein,