Add some spark to lack-lustre grass silage

Grass silage is not feeding out as well as expected on many dairy units to date this winter. So says Cargill’s ruminant technical manager Philip Ingram. Although the analyses looked good, with energy and protein above average, some producers are not seeing the milk in the tank they would expect from this year’s home produced feed.

 “Milk yields don’t seem to be on target on many dairy units,” says Dr Ingram. “Intakes are reported to be good, but cows are not milking as well as we’d expect. Despite tweaking the ration, cows are still lacking that ‘spark’ to get the milk really flowing.”

Fibre – described by NDF, ADF and Lignin on forage analysis reports – is generally high this year. Fibre is the major component in forages and makes up a high proportion of the cow’s diet but it is the hardest nutrient to digest – much harder than protein, oil, starch or sugar.

 “As well as being relatively difficult to digest, there is a big variation in the digestibility of fibre depending on factors like the time of harvesting, grass variety and weather condition. The digestibility of fibre from forages is the single biggest factor in determining whether or not the diet meets expectations.”

If the analyses are pointing to higher fibre contents and if cows are not milking as expected, Dr Ingram recommends improving fibre digestibility to release the feed value of the diet and promote milk yields.

 “Products such as Equaliser Fibre+ can be very valuable in these situations,” he adds. “This product was developed specifically to create a better rumen environment for the fibre digesting microbes, and to boost their digestive capacity.

 “It was a successful addition to rations in 2018 where forages lacked quality and were high in NDF. Although the 2019 forages have better protein content than the previous year, they may still need ‘help’ when it comes to releasing the energy from the NDF and ADF contents.”

Equaliser is a strong rumen buffer that has a buffering capacity 2.65 stronger than sodium bicarbonate and a proven track record of stabilising rumen pH. The addition of the fibre efficiency additive Amaferm –  in the case of Equaliser Fibre+ helps to maximise fibre and energy utilisation in diets with high fibre forages.

 “Including this product in diets has been shown to increase fibre digestion by around 30% and milk production by an average of 4.8%, giving a good return on investment,” adds Dr Ingram. “It helps to release the potential of home grow forages cost-effectively.”

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy 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.