Prevent buffer feeding eroding winter forage stocks



Written by John Swire

New research shows that replacing a proportion of grass silage in buffer feed with straw and a molasses blend can cost-effectively help preserve forage stocks for the coming winter according to ED&F Man.

“Dairy and beef farmers need to strike a balance between adequate buffer feeding to maintain summer production and the need to preserve sufficient forage to help reduce winter purchased feed demands,” comments Georgina Chapman, technical support manager at molasses blends specialists ED&F Man. “The key to this is accepting that at some stage supplementary buffer feeding will be required, to consider the impact it might have on silage stocks for the winter and to plan ahead. Our trials with dairy cows confirm it can be efficient to preserve silage stocks and feed an alternative.”

New ED&F Man research carried out at The Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre with Agri-EPI’s operational partners, Kingshay Dairy Consultants, shows that including a proportion of straw and Regumix, a palatable high energy and protein molasses based liquid feed in the buffer feed for dairy cows allows production to be maintained while preserving silage stocks.

The trial compared a traditional grass silage buffer with a diet containing a proportion of straw and molasses blend. In both diets the grazing intakes were the same and the total dry matter intake was unchanged. Performance was then compared between cows on the two diets.

“Over a six-week period there was no difference in yield between cows fed the initial buffer and those where straw and Regumix was included,” Ms Chapman continues. “The cows on the molasses buffer milked as well as cows on the traditional bufffer but with slightly better compositional quality. There was no difference in body condition changes between the two groups.

“There was a saving of 7.5kg of silage per cow per day. Assuming 200 cows were fed the new buffer for a typical 18 week period, the total silage saved over this time would be a potential 200 tonnes. This would then be available to increase the silage fed per cow per day over the winter feeding period, or ensure stocks are sufficient for a longer housed period.”

Ms Chapman says another advantage of molasses and straw is that they are ingredients which are easily stored on farm, are not subject to waste unlike some moist ingredients and if not used as a buffer can be used as part of the winter diet.

“Planning now to include a proportion of molasses and straw in the buffer feed could be one way to maximise silage production and availability, maintain production from grazing and help reduce the impact of higher feed costs,” Ms Chapman advises.



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Rejuvenating swards: Which option is best?

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Written by Brian McDonnell

Maintaining grass quality during mid-season grazing is important. Farmers can maintain quality by entering ideal grazing covers of 1,300 – 1,500kg DM/ha, and grazing down to a residual of 4cm every rotation.

If you are now in a situation where cows are not cleaning out paddocks as well as they should be, leading to the development of steamy grass within the sward, here are some options.

Common options for rejuvenating swards include:

  1. Take a silage cut, probably into bales, remove the material and start again with the aftermath...
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