Great Britain

Add some spark to lack-lustre grass silage

Grass silage is not feeding out as well as expected on many dairy units to date this winter. Although the analyses look good, with energy and protein above average, some producers are not seeing the milk in the tank they would expect from this year’s home produced feed.

Grass silage is not feeding out as well as expected on many dairy units this winter

Grass silage is not feeding out as well as expected on many dairy units this winter

Philip Ingram, ruminant technical manager with Cargill says: “Milk yields don’t seem to be on target on many dairy units.

“Intakes are reported to be good, but cows are not milking as well as we would expect. Despite tweaking the ration, cows are still lacking that ‘spark’ to get the milk really flowing.”

Fibre, described by NDF, ADF and Lignin on forage analysis reports, is generally high this year. Fibre is the major component in forages and makes up a high proportion of the cow’s diet but it is the hardest nutrient to digest, much harder than protein, oil, starch or sugar.

Philip Ingram, Cargill ruminant technical manager

Philip Ingram, Cargill ruminant technical manager

Dr Ingram says: “As well as being relatively difficult to digest, there is a big variation in the digestibility of fibre depending on factors like the time of harvesting, grass variety and weather condition. The digestibility of fibre from forages is the single biggest factor in determining whether or not the diet meets expectations.”

If the analyses are pointing to higher fibre contents and if cows are not milking as expected, Dr Ingram recommends improving fibre digestibility to release the feed value of the diet and promote milk yields. This could be achieved with the addition of a rumen buffer.

Dr Ingram says these products are developed specifically to create a better rumen environment for the fibre digesting microbes, and to boost their digestive capacity which can increase milk yield and release the potential in home-grown forages.

He adds: “Although 2019 forages have better protein content than the previous year, they may still need ‘help’ when it comes to releasing the energy from the NDF and ADF contents.”