Al­ter­na­tive feed source.

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS - RICK BAYNE

“We just pull grain out and put the ear­lage in. It’s pretty much two ki­los as fed for ev­ery kilo of grain you pull out.“

WHEAT HEAD­LAGE and corn snaplage are pro­vid­ing north­ern Aus­tralian farm­ers with nu­tri­tional and cost ef­fec­tive feed op­tions. And more might be turn­ing to the sys­tem after about 40 dairy farm­ers at­tended an Au­gust 4 field day at Al­lora, in­clud­ing some who trav­elled 150 km in a mini bus. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fisheries dairy ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer Ross War­ren said there was very pos­i­tive re­ac­tion to the day, with a lot of in­ter­est in adding the al­ter­na­tive for­ages in dairy oper­a­tions. Mr War­ren said wheat head­lage and corn snaplage tri­als at the Gat­ton re­search farm and the Al­lora farm both pro­duced pos­i­tive re­sults. “There were sim­i­lar re­sponses at Gat­ton to what we achieved on farm,” he said. Head­lage refers to a silage crop that has been cut higher than stan­dard, usu­ally just be­low the first leaf. Wheat head­lage yields two times the phys­i­cal ma­te­rial per hectare as the same crop taken for grain, and is one-third the price of grain on a dry mat­ter ba­sis. An­drew Mullins, who hosted the field day at his Al­lora farm, de­cided to trial the wheat and corn op­tions after see­ing the work at Gat­ton. Last win­ter he tried wheat head­lage for the first time and then turned to corn over sum­mer. Both were good but corn seems the best op­tion. “The wheat wasn’t as high in starch as we’d been hop­ing,” Mr Mullins ad­mit­ted. The crop was dam­aged by in­sects. “We had the op­tion of ei­ther spray­ing it and wait­ing for the with­hold­ing pe­riod or cut­ting it early so we went early, which I think hin­dered our starch de­vel­op­ment in that head­lage,” Mr Mullins said. The longer head­lage is left en­siled, the more di­gestible the starch be­comes. How­ever, fur­ther lo­cal re­sults in­di­cate corn might still be the best op­tion. “Oth­ers around us who did wheat a bit later still didn’t have as much starch in it as what the corn did, so I think the corn is a much bet­ter op­tion,” Mr Mullins said. He plans to plant 80 hectares this year. “Prob­a­bly half that we’ll need for silage so what­ever is left we’ll put down the same again“. Mr Mullins said corn snaplage — or ear­lage — was “bril­liant“nu­tri­on­ally and was en­joyed by cows.

“We just pull grain out and put the ear­lage in. It’s pretty much two ki­los as fed for ev­ery kilo of grain you pull out. You swap over and they never miss a beat; they just went straight on to it. Be­cause it’s in a mixed ra­tion they took straight to it.“The new ra­tions have led to im­prove­ments in milk fat com­po­nent, which in­creased about 0.3 per cent. “There’s quite a bit of fi­bre in it with the husk of the corn crop still in the silage. It’s cut long and shaggy and I thought the cows might leave it be­hind but they eat ev­ery lit­tle bit of it,“Mr Mullins said. Pro­duc­tion is no more ex­pen­sive than reg­u­lar har­vests. “We have to get con­trac­tors to har­vest if we go through to grain; ei­ther way we’re pay­ing a con­trac­tor,“Mr Mullins said. “The beauty of it is that once the con­trac­tor is fin­ished, it’s ready to feed. With grain you still have to process it, so this gives you an op­tion with­out go­ing to all the ex­pense of in­fra­struc­ture such as mills and si­los to han­dle grain.“After re­plac­ing the wheat with corn, pro­duc­tion went up about 10 per cent. “It hasn’t changed since then,“Mr Mullins said. Mr Mullins urged oth­ger farm­ers to con­sider wheat head­lage and corn snaplage op­tions. “It’s just a mat­ter of trial and er­ror. You’ve got to get your fi­bre un­der con­trol first but then it’s a bonus. When we’ve got enough silage so we’ve got our fi­bre set down for the year, then we can go chas­ing higher qual­ity prod­ucts like the head­lage or ear­age. “I think the corn will be a lot easier for us to work with and it suits the high starch qual­ity a lot more than the wheat.“North­ern NSW dairy farmer Ja­son Bake is a long-term user of the sys­tem and also pre­sented his pos­i­tive im­pres­sions to the field day.

About 40 dairy farm­ers at­tended the field day on snaplage and head­lage at An­drew Mullins’s Al­lora farm.

Al­lora dairy farmer An­drew Mullins, Ross War­ren, dariy ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer with Queens­land’s Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, and Ja­son Bake, Coffs Har­bour. Mr Bake is wear­ing a Ma­roons jersey after los­ing a bet!

Farm­ers heard that wheat head­lage and corn snaplage are pro­vid­ing north­ern Aus­tralian farm­ers with nu­tri­tional and cost ef­fec­tive feed op­tions.

Corn ear­lage

An­drewWHO: Mullins WHERE: Al­lora WHAT: Snaplage and Head­lage

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