It has been a very mixed few weeks around the country for grass growth, with some areas experiencing a mini-drought, while others have had plenty of rain to push on grass.
The vast majority of second cuts silage has yet to be made on beef farms, due to broken weather and a delayed first cut. And it will soon be time to start planning for banking grass for the autumn.
Therefore it is essential that if you have a shortage of grass until after the second cut, you slow down the rotation and supplement with either silage or concentrates.
If you don’t identify this shortage sooner rather than later, it could make for a much earlier winter than you would like. It is important that you keep applying nitrogen after grazing, to keep growth going.
Cereals off the combine
The price of grain off the combine remains low, so it makes great sense to try and source and store it for the coming feeding season.
With beef and milk prices remaining poor, it is essential that costs are controlled without compromising on animal performance. In other words, buy top quality native cereals at good value, rather than reduce feed purchases.
Blockage in the system
Earlier this week, we saw IFA protests in Foynes, Co Limerick, against importation of foreign cereals.
It is a ridiculous scenario to see native cereals at a low price and compounders still importing grain and poor-quality by-products from abroad, while Irish grain producers can’t move their top quality native produce.
The powers-that-be must be encouraged to remove all impediments from farm-to-farm trading of cereals, and must encourage maximum inclusion ofnative Irish cereals in compound feeds.
Grain off the combine represent fantastic value per unit of energy versus what will be available as compound feed this winter.
Cereals will always be higher in energy than compound blends. Buying wheat, barley or oats off the combine and storing it with any of the available treatment methods will result in a high-energy, top-quality feed for under €190 per tonne.
This will help to hugely reduce total concentrate costs by €50-80 per tonne, once balanced for your stock.
If you have any intention of buying and storing grain, make sure you purchase it sooner rather than later.
The most cost-effective way to get grain is directly from the grower so talk to local producers to secure your supply. Make sure that you get advice before you decide whether to buy barley, wheat or oats.
This decision will need to be based on how you intend to treat the grain, and what type of animals you intend to feed. Some methods offer longer storage than others, while there are also treatment methods that enhance the grains feed value.
Feeding high levels of cereals safely
A lot of beef producers feed very high levels of cereals to finishing cattle. Most of these are feeding young bulls to finish under 16 months.
It is essential that management in a feeding system like this is top notch. Preventing digestive upset is the Number 1 priority in ad-lib diets.
A very good method of feeding ad-lib cereals to cattle is by treating the grain with an additive that increases the pH to an alkaline level of around 9.0, and enhances the protein content. This option means that you can feed all native cereals, and eliminate inferior imported materials.
The high pH prevents the animals from getting the acidosis normally associated with high starch feeding.
For those intending to feed 6-8 kg to steers or heifers this winter, the high pH feed with enhanced protein would be a complete feed to balance grass silage, along with a mineral supplement.
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