Act now to mitigate risks and achieve cost-effective spring diets

With global commodity markets showing little sign of a downside in grain prices, combined with the need to augment spring and summer diets ahead of the next crop, dairy farmers should act now to mitigate risks and identify cost-effective alternatives, advises KW Alternative Feeds.

Solutions are available to not only address these cost implications, but also deliver nutritional, health and performance benefits, while also fulfilling environmental responsibilities and goals, including meeting new requirements for milk contracts.

High soya prices have been driven in a large part due to prolonged dry weather in South America, alongside the huge demand from China, resulting in a need to refill the pipelines.

The UK’s worst wheat harvest in 40 years is also hitting home, with a need to import wheat at some stage soon, and with great resolve. With little availability in nearby markets due to domestic requirements, and with Russia imposing an export tax on wheat to ensure food security, import prices will be high.

Additionally, speculators are holding near record longs of wheat, corn and soyabean contracts, and that will also be inflating the price.

If the picture is looking pessimistic, it is one that should be acknowledged and acted upon to mitigate risk, says Chris Davidson, KW senior trader.

“There are alternatives which can help ease the situation. The use of SodaBarley, for example, as an alternative to SodaWheat has given the opportunity to cover summer cereal requirements at levels more in line with what was paid this winter,” he says.

With many dairy farmers likely to consider early turnout to make the best possible use of grass to save costs, KW ruminant technical manager Charlotte Ward says SodaBarley also represents a good option to support diets.

“SodaBarley provides fermentable energy to help utilise the abundance of RDP (Rumen Degradable Protein) in grass, but is also a ‘safe’ starch source, with slow release balancing the fast release sugar energy in the spring grass,” she says.

The booming commodity prices, combined with the likely push for early spring turnout, provides other alternative options to consider.

“The xlyig-treated British rapeseed expeller, NovaPro is also an ideal complement as a protein source,” adds Ms Ward. “The priority with protein is to meet cow requirements without oversupplying RDP that is so prevalent in grass, so focus needs to be on feeds that are high in rumen-bypass protein (digestible undegraded protein, DUP). NovaPro fits the bill perfectly, with its higher DUP:RDP ratio in comparison to the prohibitively more expensive soya, allowing for improved protein utilisation.”

This high-energy, rumen protected rapeseed expeller is sourced from British rapemeal, so there are no availability issues, and costs are clearly extremely favourable against current soya prices.

Ms Ward also advises that high energy moist feed TraffordGold is a cost-effective alternative to using compound to top up grass supply, whilst also helping maintain butterfats and supporting rumen health by reducing slug feeding in the parlour. TraffordGold could significantly reduce spring and summer feed costs.

Ahead of the new crop, buying decisions need to be made now to address challenging feed costs. Alternatives are available that can displace reliance on traditional raw materials, while also boosting sustainability and providing significant performance benefits.



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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.