Match starch feeds to forage quality or risk cutting dairy margins

Failing to correctly match supplementary starch feeds to the low dry matter, acidic silages in many winter rations risks triggering sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA), cutting milk from forage and reducing income over feed costs (IOFC).

“Maximising value from home-grown forage is vital if feed costs per litre are to be minimised and IOFC maximised for the rest of the winter,” warns KW senior nutritionist Mark Scott. “Avoiding SARA and maintaining good rumen function has to be a top priority.”

Starch plays a key role in supporting milk yields and protein levels, as well as helping reduce negative energy balance in early lactation, but can also disrupt fermentation efficiency by lowering rumen pH.

“So focus on choosing the starch feeds best suited to improving rumen fermentation rather than just those offering the lowest cost,” Mr Scott continues. “For example, confectionery blends like SugaRich Dairy and SweetStarch offer a more balanced supply of energy than rolled cereals thanks to a high sugar and oil content alongside the starch.

“But where silages are particularly acidic and low in fibre, switching most of the starch in the ration to the more slowly fermented maize meal or SodaWheat – caustic soda-treated wheat -will considerably reduce the risk of SARA. The net result will be an increase in IOFC, despite the potentially higher monthly feed bill.”

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