Farmers urged to test silage following a challenging season

Dairy and beef farmers across the UK are being urged to draw up plans to make the most of this year’s ‘mixed bag’ silage.

Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition
Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition

Farmers should get their silage tested and plan winter diets accordingly following one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

The Met Office confirmed 2022 is the driest year since 1976 and the UK’s warmest year on record.

It’s really a mixed bag this year in terms of forage quality and availability so it’s important for farmers to get their silage analysed so they can draw up plans to maximise the value of the forage available to them.

It could influence intakes; some will be short of silage for the winter having produced lower volumes; and others have been forced to start feeding their winter feedstocks early due to a lack of grass growth.

In many cases, farmers will be faced with high dry matter (DM) silage, which I liken to eating a dry breakfast cereal without any milk.

Steps will need to be taken to improve forage palatability to ensure adequate feed intake.

Sorting can also be an issue in high DM total mixed rations (TMRs), increasing the risk of digestive upsets and acidosis which can severely hamper rumen function and feed efficiency; adding water to the ration can be a simple, yet effective option for dealing with this.

In instances where silage is wet cows will need to eat a higher total volume of silage to receive the same DM as they would get from drier silage.

This can result in lower dry matter intakes (DMIs) due to the bulk fill of water from the silage.

Wet silage also tends to create an increased acid load in the rumen, due to higher lactic acid concentrations in the silage, so farmers should look to balance wet silage with drier silages such as wholecrop cereal silage where available.

Farmers also need to be thinking about promoting optimum fibre digestion in the rumen, which leads to higher production, more fertile and healthier animals, and improved margins.

There are several practical ways to optimise fibre digestion, including feeding more often, pushing up regularly, offering a cool, stable and palatable ration, and avoiding overcrowding at the feed face to maximise eating.

Including live yeast in the ration is also another way of improving fibre digestion.

Rumen-specific live yeast can enhance ruminal microbiota establishment, balance the rumen environment and improve fermentation conditions.

This helps control rumen pH, reducing the risk of acidosis and significantly improves fibre digestibility within the rumen, as well as overall feed efficiency.

Data from trials using Lallemand’s rumen-specific live yeast – Levucell SC – shows dairy cows fed the yeast as part of their ration experienced an average increase in milk yields of 1.1kg a day as well as a three per cent improvement in feed efficiency.

Lientjie Colahan is technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition

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