How to maximise variable silage cuts

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Maximising milk from forage will be at the forefront of minds this winter and effectively managing silage at feed-out to balance inconsistencies between cuts will be key to success.

Inconsistencies in silage between cuts can present a challenge at feed-out and have a notable impact on rumen efficiency if not carefully managed.

Lallemand Animal Nutrition feed additive product manager, Mark McFarland, and regional business manager, Mike Burns, provide some top tips on managing silage at feed-out to maximise forage potential and avoid rumen upsets.

Understanding and analysing forage stocks

Firstly, Mr Burns stresses the importance of taking time ahead of winter feeding to create a forage budget to cover all eventualities and to help allocate the right forage to the right cows.

“Knowing how much forage you have available is crucial to inform winter feeding strategies. It allows you to take full advantage of what’s grown on the farm and reduce the risk of having to buy in forage later in the season or drastically change the ration,” he says.

Mr Burns also explains that taking regular silage samples throughout the winter-feeding period is a crucial step in maintaining ration consistency.

“Because of the variability between cuts and the dry matter (DM) changes that occur once the clamp is opened, it’s vital to analyse forage at least every four weeks. This will allow your nutritionist to make the necessary adjustments to balance the ration and maintain a healthy rumen.”

Feeding from multiple silage clamps

Many farmers are reluctant to have more than one clamp open at a time, as they are unconvinced about the wider benefits of feeding multiple silages at once.

But do the benefits outweigh the challenges associated with managing multiple silage clamps?

Mr McFarland explains that feeding from a mix of clamps can help promote rumen efficiency and balance variable cuts.

“For milking cows, the goal should be a balanced and consistent diet, fed in the long term. If there’s a lot of variation between two clamps then I would always recommend feeding from both,” he says.

“By incorporating a mix of cuts into the feeding regime, the digestibility within the rumen is stabilised. This is a far more favourable technique over feeding each cut one after the other, which can typically upset rumen balance.

“Dairy farmers often think they’ll have more waste by having more than one clamp open at a time, with forage deteriorating at a faster rate. But if modern inoculant technology and proper clamp management is adhered to then this shouldn’t be an issue.

“What is more of an issue is the waste generated from within the cow. A stable rumen fed a consistent diet, will mean less undigested feed being passed out in the manure.”

Mr McFarland adds that feed waste from the cow can be further reduced by adding a proven rumen modifier into the diet, such as a specific live yeast.

Benefits of Levucell SC

Mr McFarland says feeding a live yeast is even more important when there are inconsistencies in silage cuts.

“A live yeast such as Levucell SC supports feed digestibility resulting in improved milk production per kilogram of Dry Matter Intake (DMI).

“Studies have shown that Levucell SC improves both the cow’s digestibility of the total diet and the visible indicators of rumen efficiency. For example, by sieving the manure, you can easily see the difference between a diet that includes Levucell SC and the one that doesn’t, by looking at the amount of undigested material left behind.”

Tackling high dry matter silage

Getting ration DM content right is crucial for maximising feed intakes, as Mr Burns explains.

“Similarly, to how we would struggle to eat a plate of dry crackers, cows will simply not eat the same quantity of a ration that’s too dry. It’s important to observe the cows’ eating habits, if they’re nosing the food and sorting through the mix then they won’t be getting everything they need from their diet.

“We expect sorting to be more of an issue when farmers have dryer silage cuts to feed, so it’s important to keep a close eye on how well the feed is being received. Where total mixed rations (TMR) are too dry, nutritionists may recommend adding water or molasses if sorting is a particular issue,” says Mr Burns.

Maximising dry matter intakes in dairy cows

Mr Burns explains that determining when to put out fresh feed and when to push up what is left behind can make a big difference to feed intake and waste on farm.

  • Push up feed before cows return from milking - the cows natural body clock tells her to eat soon after milking to replenish energy levels, so simply pushing up existing feed should be sufficient
  • Bring out fresh feed at other points in the day, as a motivator to stimulate eating.
  • Ensure housing is sufficiently lit throughout the day, especially during feeding times - light stimulates the cows to increase their energy intake.
It has been shown that the optimum day length is 16 hours at a light intensity of between 160 and 200 lux.


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