Producers are being encouraged to take steps to help minimise the risk of reduced forage stocks next winter.
“Wet weather conditions across the country may mean that producers have turned cows out onto a larger grazing platform than previous years, eating into land that would normally have been ear-marked for silage,” explains Rob Fowkes, nutritional advisor at QLF.
“While this may help solve the immediate problem, farmers need to be aware that this could lead to potential forage shortages next winter if steps aren’t taken now.”
In light of this, Rob suggests a two-pronged approach to help alleviate the problem.
“Firstly, if young stock are yet to be turned out, I’d recommend keeping them in if possible so that you can shut up this extra grass for silage,” he says.
However, if you are keeping young stock in, Rob suggests reassessing and altering the ration to help stretch-out the forage available.
“Where possible, producers need to try and conserve current forage stocks so they can be rolled over into next year if required.
“One way of doing this is to replace a proportion of the forage in the ration with straw. However, to avoid a drop in intake and subsequently performance, this needs to be manged carefully.
“Including a molasses-based product, such as TMR 30, can allow a higher proportion of straw to be fed without any detrimental effects. As it’s highly palatable, it encourages feed intake as well as binding the ration together which will reduce the opportunity for sorting,” he adds.
If cows are out at grass, Rob says an option is to restrict the amount of time they are out, however explains that an adequately balanced buffer feed will need to be provided to ensure nutritional requirements are still met.
“For cows, you can increase the amount of straw in the diet to 3kg and/or switch to a lower quality forage by adding molasses to the diet.
“As with the young stock ration, if feeding straw or poorer quality forage, it will be critical to include something palatable in the ration to maintain feed intake, so I would also advise the inclusion of TMR30,” he adds.
Rob says aside from conserving valuable forage stock, taking this approach can help make the most of the grass available.
“The NDF levels in grass are currently low due to fast growth, meaning it will pass through the rumen rapidly. Providing a buffer ration with the inclusion of straw and molasses, will slow down the rate of passage, increasing the time available for nutrients to be absorbed,” he says.
“This will stabilise the availability of sugar and protein from the grass, allowing it to be used by the cow more efficiently, ultimately leading to increased performance.”