Winter forage stock considerations

Homegrown forage is a valuable asset in these times of rising input costs.

Abbi England is NWF technical manager
Abbi England is NWF technical manager

However, after a good start to the season the prolonged hot dry conditions have left many suffering from low grass forage stocks for winter.

Maize crops for a lot of the country are looking to be a lower yielding crop than previous years, though arguably the crop has hope of being particularly high starch. There should still be time for extra grass cuts, but it is unlikely they will provide the tonnage needed for most.

Here are some forage extending tips:

– Analyse your silage regularly, accurate silage analysis will play a vital role in allowing stocks to be optimised over the winter

– Replace a smaller percentage of forage throughout the winter to avoid needing to replace large percentages of forage intake next spring

– Consider moving youngstock onto straw and compound rations if they are usually fed silage though the winter

– Contact your NWF local sales specialist who can calculate the tonnes of forage in your clamps specific to the dry matter of the crop.

For the milking herd there are a number of options to extend forage stocks with alternative feeds.

Moist feed would be a popular choice but even they are becoming difficult for new users to source.

Other options to extend forage stocks include replacing a percentage of grass silage with; straw and molasses, straw, urea and protected fat, straw, rapeseed meal and cereal or sourcing a forage replacer compound/blend.

Other considerations:

– It is important if straw is included that it is chopped well (one to two inches) and the rest of the ration must be balanced carefully to ensure total intakes and performance are not negatively affected

– When feeding any of these alternative options take time to gradually change the diet. It takes the rumen up to two weeks to adjust to diet changes

– Ensure cattle have access to clean, fresh water at all times

– Consider mineral application

Abbi England is technical manager for NWF

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