Con­cerns in­crease over silage

The Oban Times - - FARMING -

CON­CERNS over the num­ber of re­cently an­a­lysed silage sam­ples re­veal­ing low pro­tein lev­els has led staff from Scot­land’s Ru­ral Col­lege to urge farm­ers to get their silage an­a­lysed as soon as pos­si­ble, be­fore the win­ter feed­ing regime be­gins in earnest.

Once iden­ti­fied, a pro­tein short­fall can be eas­ily rec­ti­fied, but cat­tle fed on silage with low level of pro­tein are at risk of ru­men di­ges­tion prob­lems which, in the worst cases, can be fa­tal.

It is not clear why there is a drop in pro­tein on some farms but the late cold spring and re­cent wet win­ters in the past cou­ple of years are thought to play a part. Hav­ing stud­ied the lat­est test re­sults Perth-based nu­tri­tion­ist Karen Ste­wart, from the col­lege’s SAC con­sult­ing beef and sheep team, fears some re­sults are be­low safe lev­els.

She said: ‘We are very con­cerned that more sam­ples this year have pro­tein lev­els be­low the 10 per cent level which we would con­sider crit­i­cal for most stock. In ex­treme cases, the pro­tein level is even lower than last year with a few at only six to seven per cent.

‘Most at risk are dry suck­ler cows, be­tween wean­ing and calv­ing, where straw is mixed in with silage they eat. In this sit­u­a­tion, even silages with mod­er­ate pro­tein lev­els, if they are fed with too much straw, will cause is­sues with the func­tion of the an­i­mal’s ru­men and pos­si­ble ru­men im­paction.’

Even fol­low­ing last year’s warn­ing, SAC Con­sult­ing Ve­teri­nary Ser­vices di­ag­nosed pro­tein de­fi­ciency as the cause of death of one or more cat­tle in three beef herds.

Heather Steven­son, of SAC Con­sult­ing Ve­teri­nary Ser­vices, said: ‘If your silage is made in a pit con­tain­ing grass from both the first and sec­ond cuts, re­mem­ber any ini­tial sam­ples taken from the feed­ing face will be largely from the sec­ond cut, which in our ex­pe­ri­ence is more likely to have nor­mal pro­tein lev­els.

‘So if pos­si­ble take a core sam­ple fur­ther into the pit, or an­other sam­ple as soon as the first cut be­comes ob­vi­ous at the bot­tom two to three feet of the face.’

While the prob­lem arises more of­ten in silages made for beef cat­tle and sheep, some silages made for dairy herds are also record­ing pro­tein lev­els be­low 10 per cent. Given the high pro­tein re­quire­ments of a cow pro­duc­ing milk, this is par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal.

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Ste­wart, the prob­lem can be eas­ily rec­ti­fied by feed­ing more of a suit­able pro­tein sup­ple­ment.

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