15% more dairy cows needing winter feed
This has been a good year for grass growth. Weather conditions in most par ts of the country were favourable, resulting in reas o n a bl y g o o d s u p p l i e s o f winter feed on farms. Farmers should aim to have surplus winter feed, it will be very beneficial going forward, helping to avoid what happened in 2012/2013, for example.
There will be a lot of extra cattle in the country for the coming season.
Every farmer should carry out a winter feed budget. There are 15% more dairy cows in the country last December than in 2014, and this increase must be matched by providing more winter feed.
Winter feed budget
The amount of silage available and stock numbers to be overwintered should be calculated.
Cows will require 1.6 tonnes of silage per month, while yearlings and in- calf heifers will require 0.7 and 1.3 tonnes respectively.
Spring calving cows will require about eight of bales silage for a five-month winter. Tonnes of pit silage are calculated by multiplying the length by the width by settled height in metres, and dividing by 1.4.
This calculation works for average quality silage. Adjustments must be made f o r ve r y h i g h o r l o w d r y matter silage.
Some farmers have made arrangements to buy maize silage, grass silage, fodder beet and other feeds, or have sown some rape or kale. Other farmers purchased whole crop wheat or barley or grain from the harvester, at less than 20%. This grain has to be treated with a preservative, and is ideal for rolling at this moisture content. Crimped grain should have a moisture content of 30 to 35%. A preservative has to be used and the grain is ensiled in a polythene lined clamp and well consolidated to prevent air entry.
As whole- crop and grain purchasing may be a new experience for many farmers, very good care should be taken to avoid signif icant waste. Best advice should be got regarding preservatives, storage techniques, vermin control and usage. Otherwise you could end up with a lot of mouldy bad feed, costing you a lot of money. Due to high stocking rates on some farms, especially if combined with financial pressure, it will be wiser to sell some stock rather than buy in feed.
Cull cows are still selling well, and it may be an opportunity to get rid of problem animals as well as providing some welcome cash. They should be sold as soon as possible, to preserve maximum grass for milking cows. The feeding value of forages depends a lot on dry matter (DM) content.
A cubic metre of 20% DM silage will weigh 0.77 tonnes, and contain approximately 155 kg of feed DM.
If the silage is wetter, it will contain less DM per cubic metre.
A round bale of silage (30% DM) weighing 650 kg will contain 195 kg of DM.
A cubic metre of 30% maize silage will contain 225 kg of dry matter.
Small square bales of hay weighing 20 kg, and 4x4 round bales of hay weighing 240kg, contain 17 kg of DM and 204 kg of DM respectively, while a 5x4 bale contains 50% more. Small square bales of straw we i g h i n g 1 2 . 5 k g a n d 4 x 4 round bales of straw weighing 150 kg contain 11 kg and 132 kg DM respectively.
Most farmers will be purchasing some concentrate feed for the winter. Concentrates have to be balanced properly with protein and minerals, which has to be taken into account when comparing feeds for dif ferent types of animals.
If you pay € 180/ tonne for dried, rolled barley, and €350/ tonne for soya bean, rolled wheat should be worth €185, rolled oats € 155, maize meal €200, beet pulp €175, molasses € 115, citrus pulp € 170, soya hulls € 180, corn gluten € 190, maize distillers € 215, and rapeseed meal €215 per tonne.
Based on these prices for concentrates, approximate values can also be assigned to forages.
However, be careful when purchasing forage because the quality can vary widely. Good hay is worth €130 per tonne, €2.50 for small square bales ( 20kg), or € 25 for 4x4 round bales.
Good straw is worth €78 per tonne, 85 cent for small bales ( 12.5kg), € 10 for 4x4 round bales.
Good silage has a feeding value of €27 per tonne at 20% DM.
Round bales of good silage weighing 650 kg at 30% DM will contain 195 kg DM and will be worth about €27. As with all forages, silage quality and value can vary by more than 30%.
Before purchasing, assess DM and quality. Mouldy feed contains toxins that can be very damaging to herd health and performance. A lot of hidden damage is done to animals by mouldy feed on Irish farms every year. You should dump mouldy silage.
Good maize silage could be worth €45 per tonne. Clean fodder beet has a feeding value of about € 36 per tonne ( varies with DM content), delivered.
The feeding value of purchased forage should not be confused with the ex- farm price. The additional costs of transport, storing and feeding out costs must be taken into account.
Losses with wet feeds or silage can vary from 10 to 20%, compared to less than 2% with dry concentrates. Interest charges for feed purchased in the autumn must also be taken into account.
Farm to farm trading
In recent years, there has been an upsurge in feed trade between farmers.
This trend is likely to increase as farmers are increasing cow numbers and buying in more feed from nondairy farmers. More dairy farmers will enter i nto contracts with other farmers for maize silage, fodder beet, wholecrop etc. However, buying grain at the harvest time it is not a suitable option for a lot of dairy f armers, especially those who have poor storage facilities, who have no time or facilities for treating or mixing the grain with other ingredients, or those who cannot afford to buy now for use next spring.
The cost of treatment and rolling is about €30 per tonne, and when the relatively low dry matter is compared with dried grain, and storage and handling losses are taken into account, savings are unlikely to be worthwhile, except for fairly large, well- organised farms, with good facilities. Purchasing a good quality balanced mix ( high in fibre) from co-ops or other suppliers is probably the best option for most dairy farmers who will supplement cows on autumn grass. A good quality balanced ration should be fed to early lactation cows. While barley and wheat are excellent feeds in dairy rations, trials indicate that they are not the best concentrate to feed with autumn grass because they break down quickly in the rumen. However, if there is some silage or other roughage in the diet, they are a very good source of energy.
When comparing feeds, many different factors have to be taken into account. Obviously dry matter, energy and protein content are very important.
Teagasc Tipperary organised this farmer visit to three farms to view robotic milking parlours, above, from left, one of the host farmers, Bill Carroll, Kilsheelan; Donal Mullane, Teagasc Regional Manager; Graham Swanton, farm manager; and Tim Hussey, DeLaval. Left, Michael White, Teagasc; Michael Kennedy, Thurles; Sean Crosse, Donaskeigh; and Mitchel Heffernan, Kilfeacle.