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Dairy feeding dilemmas?

Dr Kerensa Hawkey, Nutritionist and Technical Projects Manager

With the likely pressure of tight forage stocks, fluctuating milk prices, input cost uncertainty and rising interest rates, understanding your farm’s priorities this winter will be vital.

Some farmers will push for higher milk yields, while others will focus on quality. Some may take a more practical approach on environmental decisions like the removal of soya, while others will prioritise production costs.

However, everyone will be trying to make the most of their forage.

Forage stocks are particularly tight this year after a challenging 2022, followed by variable weather this year. Reserves on farms remain low (at the time of writing) but just what can you do to make the most of what you have?

A regular forage review and feed plan can highlight areas where savings on farm can be made. Forage extender products could be used to extend stocks now and create more of a buffer for the winter.

Early indications are that grass silage quality and maize growth rates, even within local regions, are variable. Regular forage analysis will allow for adjustments to be made for any nutritional variation in the forages.

Systematic assessment of forage dry matter will also allow for more accurate forage stock calculations, as well as indicating whether additional water is needed in TMR mixes to drive dry matter intakes.

Increased amounts of wheat and barley have been taken for wholecrop this year to help buffer forage stocks. Fermented wholecrop can be variable in composition depending on the stage it was cut and ensiled, with variations in dry matter, starch and fibre content.

A forage analysis will help you decide whether additional protein is needed, depending on the rest of the diet. The mineral balance may need altering. Also, ensure the wholecrop has been ensiled for long enough to achieve good fermentation.

With varying stocks, forage types and nutritional composition this winter minimising variation in the rumen is going to be a challenge. The key to efficient production and performance is driving the rumen efficiently to achieve production and commercial targets.

Different feeds and forages are degraded differently by the rumen bacteria. Accurate balancing of rapid and slow degradable carbohydrates and protein will maximise rumen efficiency and production.

So choosing the correct product, whether compound feed, blend or feed additives, will be crucial this winter.

Our Precision Nutrition software incorporates multiple parameters to ensure optimal forage utilisation, rumen health and product selection to meet both production and financial needs.

Our nutritionists can discuss and demonstrate different product options, outlining how to make the most of your individual farm’s unique circumstances.

Dairy cow feeding this winter is going to need attention to detail and a clear focus on your objectives for the year. Farmers need to consider the best dietary solution for their individual herd situation. Planning ahead could make all the difference.

For more on our Precision Nutrition Rationing Program call our Feed Line on 01566 780261

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