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Read all the latest news from the agronomy services industry.


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Thinking Critically About Forage

Published: Monday, March 7, 2016
Category: Archive

Thinking Critically About Forage

Thinking Critically About Forage

 

The low milk price is hitting all dairy farmers and whatever the impact on farm, one thing is clear: very close attention needs to be paid to the cost of production. One clear impact is the forced realisation that a lot more can be done to control costs by utilising home grown forage. However, this is far less simple than it sounds and do we even understand what this means?

 

Home grown forage is the cheapest form of feed and increasing forage-to-feed ratio allows for greater direct control of inputs. None of this, however, is a new concept. On the surface it appears very simple but there is a lot that needs to be understood before it can take any effect. A lack of understanding in what it means to utilise forage can even lead to a drop in milk production and an increase in overall cost. Utilising forage means far more than simply growing more and feeding more.

 

Attention needs to be paid to growing the right variety of maize, grass or whole crop mixtures to suit the location, growing conditions and intended use. Feeding more may not give more nutrition to the cow unless the nutrition of that forage is balanced and understood. Growing and feeding increasing amounts of grass with high sugars and maize with high starch could be putting too much stress on the rumen. This can cause difficulty in digestion and possibly contribute to ill health and lower milk production, by lowering the pH in the rumen.

 

To manage the balance of forage its’ quality should be more closely monitored up to the point where it is fed to the cow, and even beyond. Equal attention should be given at each stage, the job is not finished when it is cut and clamped. Silage should be sampled every 6 weeks or whenever changing clamp. Continual analysis of the forage will allow cows to be rationed with each change, ensuring the ration is balanced correctly. Feeding forage at the correct rate, the monitoring of SARA (acidosis) and matching it with the appropriate feed, power packs and minerals will help to ensure that the right level of nutrition is delivered: in all, a more analytical approach needs to be taken.

 

There is a growing recognition that more can be done to utilise forage but to do so our view of it should become a lot more critical.

 

 

 

Article by Allan Tuffin

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