Secure winter feeds now to replace silage fed this summer

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Traffodgold clamp tipping image

Milk producers are being urged to act now to secure the additional winter feeds needed to replace any extra forage fed this summer. According to KW nutritionist Samuel Wellock, if the right feed choices are made – and made soon enough to secure supply – it’s even possible that winter margins could be increased.

“With many traditional forage replacers like moist feeds sold out or pre-booked till the end of September, the only remaining options for the summer are dry concentrates or blends,” he states. “But feeding extra now isn’t the only way to tackle the problem.

“For most herds, focusing instead on securing additional winter feed is likely to be more cost-effective, with moist feeds, liquid feeds and blends all currently available for October to April delivery.”

Extra feed supplies

Mr Wellock’s calculations show that feeding 4kg FW/cow of Traffordgold wheat gluten-moist feed, for example, can cut grass silage requirements in a base ration supporting maintenance-plus-25 litres from 35kg FW/day to 29kg FW/day. For a 200-cow herd, that 6kg FW/day saving over a full six month winter would add up to 219 tonnes of extra silage, enough for another 37 days of the winter ration.

“Daily energy supply would also increase enough to support another 0.75 litres/cow. At 30ppl, that’s worth 22p/cow/day, more than covering the 18p/cow/day for the moist feed,” he explains. “For those not able to deal with moist feeds, a blend is probably one of the best options as it allows a variety of different feeds to be used depending on which are best value.

Distillers' moist feed
Distillers’ moist feeds are a palatable source of digestible fibre energy and protein.

“It’s also possible to secure a specification now to take advantage of current prices and availability, yet still have the option to change formulation prior to delivery if needed.”

Other feeds to consider include draff and brewers’ grains, though their lower energy content translates into lower value as a silage replacer. Replacing the same 6kg FW of grass silage with 8kg FW of draff would supply the same energy, but in a ration costing around 18p/cow/day more.

Late winter forage

“Definitely don’t rely on being able to source additional forage in late winter, as it’s highly unlikely there will be anything available,” Mr Wellock warns. “Maize crops are already struggling in the dry weather, and shorter crops and early heading will mean less cereal straw.

“Some will have taken extra wholecrop cereal silage – another reason there will be less straw for sale – but everyone should to be trying to take 4th or even 5th cut grass silages if weather at the back end allows.”

Straw will still play a key role on many farms, however, despite prices of £130-150/t seeming expensive. Combined with a high-protein liquid feed, such as one of the distillery syrups (Spey Syrup) or urea-molasses liquids (ReguPro 38), it can be a highly effective forage replacer, particularly for youngstock and dry cows, Mr Wellock advises.

Liquid feed option

“Liquid feeds are a great way to add more energy or protein to the ration where forage stocks are tight. They don’t carry the same acidosis risk as feeding more starch, and will boost palatability and intakes of low quality forages,” he adds.

“…a quick decision is needed as winter volumes of all feeds are selling fast.”

However, a quick decision is needed as winter volumes of all feeds are selling fast. Mr Wellock also warns against simply cutting back on buffer feeding to save silage for winter – replenishing extra condition lost during the summer will be at the expense of milk output once cows are housed on full winter rations.

“Remember that milk volumes are likely to be lower this autumn, so that should prop up the milk price and help cover any additional feed costs. Just make sure you’re balancing the ration in terms of nutrient supply, fibre, starch and oil, as failing to do so will cut feed efficiency and reduce the return any extra feed will provide.”

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