With warnings of a forage shortage in some parts of the country, as well as some variable forage qualities, producers are being warned to budget carefully and not wait until supplies are running low.
“It’s tempting to live in hope that we get an early spring,” says Cargill ruminant nutritionist Philip Ingram. “But that’s a high-risk strategy because demand may be high, and you could be left with some poor-quality forages – and high prices.”
“Work out what you have in terms of forages, what you need and what budget you have,” he says. “It may be worth feeding a few more kilogrammes of concentrate to make sure you have enough forage for the season.”
For those who do have to buy in supplies, often big-bale silage, Dr Ingram warns that quality can vary and that there could be consequences for cows switching from one feed to another. His advice is to cost it carefully, based on the forage analysis, and calculate how much the forage is costing per kilogramme of dry matter. “Doing this quick calculation will help to ensure that you are getting good value for money.”
Getting the most out of forage is also important. “It’s well worth considering adding a natural additive, like Amaferm, which has been shown to promote a more consistent rumen environment and settle digestion by increasing the uptake of lactic acid,” he explains. “This could be particularly valuable this winter.”
A proven fibre-breaking additive, it can also increase the feed value from forages by breaking down the plant cell walls and releasing energy that can be used in milk production. “With more than 40% of the forage feed value locked in the cell wall, gaining access to this and making use of the valuable nutrients can be a very cost-effective tool in milk production.”