Planning and balance key to feeding plans

National Dairy Show 2013: the winning not-in-milk cow, Mountfarna MOD Wendy, exhibited by John O'Callaghan, Bandon, Co Cork (at halter), with his nephew Niall Kelly, Seamus Cantillon, Macroom Mills, class sponsor; and show judge Michael Gould.

Due to fine summer and early autumn weather, most farmers have adequate forage for winter feed.

Many farmers have plans to feed some concentrate feed to supplement their forage, especially those who bought straw to stretch their silage.

Teagasc has put a value on a number of available concentrates based on barley at €200 and soya bean meal at €430 per tonne, as follows.

Soya hulls €201, citrus pulp €185, beet pulp €195, maize gluten €224, distillers grains €250, rapeseed meal €259.

But the costs of properly balancing each of these feeds with protein and minerals for the type of animals they are being fed to must also be taken into account.

Concentrates should also be balanced for the type of roughage that is being fed.

Minimum Roughage Requirements

As a guide, cows will require about 10 kg of dry matter (DM) per day, or the equivalent of about 1.5 tonnes of 20% DM silage per month, while on full silage.

Weanlings will require about half of this amount.

If poor quality forage is being fed, much of the dry matter intake should consist of concentrates.

All cattle require some silage or another roughage in their diet.

If roughage is very scarce, Teagasc recommends that roughage must be at least 35-40% of total dry matter intake for dairy cows, and 0.7% of body weight for cattle, except finishing cattle on a high concentrate diet, where about 1kg of roughage DM per animal per day should be sufficient.

Therefore, the minimum roughage requirement for dairy cows is about 3.75kg of DM per day, or 25kg per week (about 20kg of 21% DM silage per day).

Strong stores will require at least 3kg of DM as roughage per day, while weanlings will require 2kg (about 10kg of silage).

Diets should of course be correctly balanced for energy (concentrates), protein, and minerals, and a clean water supply should always be available.

With the lower price of concentrates this year, minimal roughage feeding could be a reasonable option, if good quality silage and other fodders are very scarce and expensive.

A lot of straw will be fed this winter; it is very important to balance it properly with a high-protein, high-mineral concentrate. Farmers should note that the mineral requirements with grass silage are very different to the mineral requirements when feeding with other forages such as maize silage, fodder beet, straw, hay, kale etc.

Incorrect mineral feeding can give very bad results. Make sure to get proper advice from Teagasc and your mineral supplier.


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