Variable forage quality and volatile feed and input prices are putting added pressure on dairy producers this winter, however, providing the correct nutrients through precision feeding can help improve performance efficiencies and margins.
“The adage ‘if you look after your animal, your animal will look after you’ has never been more relevant,” said Mike Chown, ruminant technical manager at UFAC-UK, “This is particularly true if we want to achieve the optimum yield from silage this winter.”
With forage and silage quality so variable this year, selecting the right forage for the right animals is key to optimising production. Forage should be analysed monthly throughout the winter, as the analysis will change as growers move through the clamp.
“To maximise forage DMIs, we need to know what we are feeding, and balance rations with the correct nutrients, such as structural fibre, sugar, starch, rumen protein, by-pass protein and rumen inert fatty acids,” explained Mr Chown.
“We must ensure the speed of break down in the rumen is matched, while at the same time, paying attention to acid loading and rumen pH. This will optimise rumen microbes to promote fibre digestion and intakes, most cost-effectively,” he added.
Once microbial protein and volatile fatty acids from the rumen have been optimised, Mr Chown says that adding specified nutrients, such as rumen inert/bypass proteins and fatty acids, will help meet cow requirements.
“When doing this, it is important that every purchased feed is most cost-effective for the nutrient it is contributing to, for example, not just looking at crude protein, but also looking at the cost of rumen degradable and rumen undegradable protein such as amino acids,” continued Mr Chown.
Top tips to get the most from forage this winter
- Understand the quality of forage through regular analysis
- Feed according to the stage of lactation
- Provide the right environment at the right stage of lactation
- Ensure optimal rumen performance
- Monitor performance and revise the diet as required
- Check the dung for effective fibre and starch digestion, also watch for dung consistency, are there signs of SARA or Mycotoxins?
- Check cud score and rate