15% more dairy cows need­ing winter feed

Irish Examiner - Farming - - DAIRY SECTOR - Joe Sheehy

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.

Con­cen­trate val­ues

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.

For­age val­ues

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.

Pic­tures: O’Gor­man Pho­tog­ra­phy

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,...

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