Quality concentrate helps support top fertility on organic farm

Jamie Adams believes balancing forage with a high energy, lower protein concentrate is one of the reasons his organic herd is in the top 5% of Genus RMS farms for fertility.

Jamie runs 340 cows which calve in a nine week autumn block. Another 160 cows calve in a seven week spring block. 61% of cows calve in the first three weeks.

Quality, rotationally grazed grass and grass silage are at the heart of the simple, forage-focused, organic system. Both herds are fed the same concentrate through the parlour, which is designed to complement the season’s forage by Mole Valley Feed Solutions.

Jamie says: “We’ve always been conscious energy is the challenge for a herd in a tight calving pattern that’s so reliant on forage. And we haven’t got lots of tricks in the box. We haven’t got a mixer wagon. We’re looking for a simple system and a cake that will complement the forage.”

Jamie and his team work hard to maximise forage quality, harvesting silage as early as possible and leaving six weeks between cuts. Leys are also reseeded as required, using a pea and vetch cover crop, following a forage rape or stubble turnip crop. Much of the silage ground is planted with red clover and perennial ryegrass swards. It means homegrown forage is naturally high in protein, with first cut typically analysing at 16% crude protein and 10.8-11.2 MJ/kg DM ME.

As a result, Mole Valley Feed Solutions’ Feed Specialist, James Evans, Jamie and Herd Manager, Tim Lewis discussed lowering the protein content of the parlour concentrate from 18% to match forage quality. James says doing so is worthwhile from a financial perspective as it reduces reliance on bought-in protein. It also benefits the cow and the environment. He adds: “If you can get protein out of your forage, it’s cheaper and it’s a better overall picture for the ration.”

Now cows are typically fed a 16% crude protein concentrate through the parlour at housing. This may be dropped to 15% if silage protein levels are sufficient. Tim believes dropping the protein so cows are only provided with what they need helps overall fertility as cows don’t need to use energy to break down excess protein.

Jamie also recognises all farmers need to act responsibly when it comes to the environment. Avoiding overfeeding of protein is part of that message as it helps reduce the amount of nitrogen a cow excretes.

Upping the energy in the cake also helps get cows cycling and back in calf. Ultimately, Jamie says this helps the bottom line. “The more cows that calve earlier in each calving period, the more milk we produce and the more money we make,” he says.

Jamie is pleased with the quality of organic parlour concentrate and service available through Mole Valley Farmers, who have invested in improved manufacturing facilities. “It’s not just price. Price is obviously important from a business point of view, but there’s also confidence in Mole Valley Farmers’ commitment to organic. That commitment they’re making means they know what they’re doing,” he says. “They’ve also invested money into a better press and that’s resulted in a more consistent cake.”

 

For more information, please speak to your local nutritionist or call the
Feed and Nutritionist Line on 01278 444829.

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