Fine-tuning your indoor feeding plan

At the recent store cattle show and sale in Corrin Mart, Fermoy, with the winning pen of Belgian Blue heifers, Michael Clancy, Martin Dorgan and Michael Ryan of the mart committee, mart manager Sean Leahy, and winning owner David O'Callaghan, Doneraile.

At this stage most stock around the country are housed for the winter.

Most have either run out of grass or are saving a pick for next spring. It has been a great late autumn and early winter season and has hope-fully shortened the winter for many farmers.

For those who normally turn out stock around St Patrick’s Day it is only just over 16 weeks away.

The extended grazing season has been a great boost to those who feared they would not have enough fodder for the winter.

Now that most are confident that they have sufficient fodder the next step is to make best possible use of the feed available on farm. That means balancing it correctly to achieve optimum animal performance.

Managing 2013 silage

Undoubtedly silages are much better than last year. One interesting observation however this year is the dry matter of silages in the pit. A lot of pits have 30% dry matter or more.

Some of these grasses were on the ground for too long after cutting, unfortunately. One aspect which should not be ignored is that many of these high dry matter silages also have a high pH which means they have not preserved well. Pit management will be critical when these two issues are encountered.

Poorly managed pits will result in a huge level of waste and poor animal intakes. Moving across pits quickly will help to reduce this waste. A shear grab is a must in this scenario.

Due to the higher dry matters it is also worth remembering that you probably have a lot more feeding in the pit than you think. For example if you had 20% dry matter silage last year and 30% dry matter this year in the same pit then you have 50% more feeding this year.

Concentrate feeding

As a result of the excellent summer, Irish cereal quality has been excellent in 2013.

Combined with this is the fact that cereal prices are a good bit lower than in 2012.

This can only mean that higher quality concentrates will be delivered on farm this year.

Mixes will have higher inclusion levels of native cereals due to their value and will also include some imported maize, due to its low cost.

This can only be a good thing for all livestock producers. Intensive finishers always swear by yellow meal to get the final fat cover on cattle.

In years when cereal is such good value, I have seen farmers over feed it and cause digestive upsets.

High starch diets can cause harm to animals if not balanced correctly. Remember that cereals are low in protein and need to be balanced.

Feeding beet

Now that we are well into November most beet growers have commenced harvesting. Take care not to introduce beet too quickly to stock. Gradually increase the feeding rate to avoid digestive upsets. Beet is an excellent feed for cattle once it is fed correctly. Remember that beet is low in protein so en-sure that you balance it correctly. Beet fed at a high rate also needs to be carefully balanced for minerals.

A word of caution for those buying beet, however: many are paying big money for beet. Do your sums before buying beet. If you are not sure how to calculate its value, ask someone for accurate advice.

Dosing

I have written about this recently but it is well worth revisiting. Get animals dosed as soon as it is appropriate to do so and make sure that you use the products that are most effective for each batch of stock while getting the timing right. There is little point in getting your feeding strategy right if your stock have a significant parasite burden.

¦ Independent dairy and beef nutrition consultant Brian Reidy, Premier Farm Nutrition, can be contacted at brian@pfn.ie


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