Make Best Use of Your Forage.

8th October 2021

As winter feeding commences, Fane Valley Feeds’ Ruminant Nutritionist Dr David Johnston outlines some practices farmers should employ to maximise efficiency during the coming months.

With most cows housed in recent weeks due to adverse weather conditions, many dairy farmers across Northern Ireland are keen to maximise silage use within their milk production systems this winter.

David outlines, “It is vitally important to get a representative sample from the pit face, and balance the diet accordingly with a feeding strategy which will fully utilise forage and concentrate feeding to maximise milk production and profit of the dairy farm during a testing time”.

See below the average results for first and second cut silages in Northern Ireland.

When trying to maximise forage intake on-farm, David outlines a number of factors that are very simple, yet have a large impact on production;

  • Presentation – Generally, forage prepared through a feeder wagon increases the consistency of the mix, improves palatability, whilst ensuring long fibre is chopped to avoid sorting. All refused feed should be removed daily to maximise palatability.
  • Feed Space – Adequate access to feed is extremely important to ensure forage intake potential is met. It is recommended a minimum of 2 feet (60cm)/ per cow.
  • Forage – Naturally, a forage with minimal contamination and wastage will encourage higher intakes, therefore it is crucial to keep the silo face clean and tidy. With higher dry matters seen across the country, it is advised to incorporate a second forage to help prevent the mix from becoming too dry (ideal PMR Dry Matter is 45-50%).
  • Frequency – Feeding twice a day ensures the mix is fresh and has been shown to increase intakes. Pushing the feed up regularly may allow the less dominant cows or heifers to the feed fence.
  • Water – Access to sufficient fresh clean water is key to drive dry matter intake. Milk is 85% water; restrict water input, restrict milk output! (4 litres of water = 1 litre of milk)

David continues, “From an energy perspective, it is important to work out silage intakes and what the silage is realistically able to support depending on silage quality and management. Target Feeding is vital to ensure cows are fed appropriately to improve efficiency especially in the current climate”.

David concludes, “Choosing the correct feeding strategy to balance your silage is of the utmost importance. Fane Valley Feeds have a complete range of compound feeds and blends available to get the most from all forages this winter to ensure health, productivity and profitability are at the forefront of your business”.

For more information on the Fane Valley Feeds product range and assistance with getting your feeding strategy correct this winter, please contact Dr David Johnston on 079 2986 5118 or your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Specialist.