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One of the biggest ineffi ciencies on many farms is feed
being wasted by not ensiling properly and feed out
wastage, not to mention mould growth, which we should
watch for. Even a number as small as 10 per cent waste
accounts for 100 tonnes of silage (150 bales) in a 100-cow
Catch crops
The fi ne weather over the last few months has sped up
ripening for grain and maize crops. While this has been
detrimental to bulk in these crops in some cases, it has
also allowed both tillage and other famers to get catch
crops into the ground. This has been incentivised by the
government through a 100-155 subsidy per hectare to
help with the cost of these crops and grasses. While they
are available for grazing and bailing, farms need to pay
attention when conserving these products, as they can
be troublesome, due to extra wrap, low dry matter of
material and poorer ensiling ability.
Straw is one ingredient that every farm should get their
hands on. Yes, like all other ingredients, it is getting
expensive, driven in part by a large portion of the grain
crop being converted into whole crop. A simple rule of
thumb is that one kilogram of straw can replace fi ve
kilograms of silage. To put it simply: by using 100 square
bales of straw, you could save 300 tonnes of silage on
a 100-cow herd. Over-feeding of dry cows leading to
excessive weight is common around the country, both
for dairy and suckler cows. The use of straw in these diets
can account for more than half the intake of silage and
can also maintain condition for these animals, reducing
calving problems and health issues.
Finishers, weanlings and dry cows -- as
well as milk cows, in extreme cases -- can
be fed using straw and concentrate, if
required, when there is no forage available.
New ingredients -- new diet
As we are moving away from the traditional
grass silage and meal-only approach with
the addition of new ingredients, not
only do you need a method to feed your
animals that reduces labour, you also need
someone with nutritional expertise to
balance these diets for animals to perform
well. For example, using maize or beet
will mean that the forage base, which has
traditionally been 12-13 per cent protein, is
now closer to 6 per cent; as such, feeding
the usual protein meal will mean weanlings won't grow,
cows will milk less and feed might pass through the
animal undigested. It is very important to test these new
and existing forages not only for energy, protein and dry
matter, but also for minerals. Feeding these new diets
means diff erent types of mineral supplementations are
required, and this needs to be balanced now, rather than
fi nding out the hard way next spring. As we use less
forage, pulp and hulls and increase the concentrate, it is
also important to look after rumen and avoid acidosis.
Therefore, it is recommended that you fi nd a nutritionist
to balance the diet -- especially for fi nishing and milking
diets that would have previously been highly powerful and
full of energy, starch or grain.
While they sometimes say that good things come to those
who wait, this is not one of those times. We have the next
month to fi nalise any feed we need -- if it isn't too late
already. It won't be a matter of price next spring for feed,
as it probably won't be there to buy. As you plan ahead,
here are six pieces of advice:
1. Make a feed budget
2. Review it and stick to it
3. Base purchase of feed on cost per tonne of dry
matter -- and seek advice if you are unsure
4. Straw is an essential element on the farm
5. Reduce waste when ensiling and during feed-out
6. Test silage for nutrients and minerals and balance
diets accordingly
If you would like further advice on anything mentioned
here, please feel free to contact InTouch at +059 910 1320
or email
This year at the National Ploughing Championships the InTouch nutrition
team will be operating one-to-one consultations to help you plan for
winter, o ering free advice on feed budgeting and feeding options. Visit
Alltech and KEENAN at stand 351, block 2, row 17 at the National Ploughing
Championships, September 17-20 to speak with our nutritionists.
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