Great Britain

‘Balancing a winter ration should begin with silage analysis’ – farmers advised

“Short-regrowth pasture silages are more rapidly fermentable in the rumen and can pass through the digestive system more quickly.”

With inappropriate supplementation, Dr Kirkland said lower fibre levels can compromise rumen pH.

“While high fibre ingredients such as straw are an effective buffer to slow down flow of feed through the digestive system, they also fill the rumen with low feed quality bulk that can compromise energy intake and milk protein.”

“Overloading the diet with high starch supplements to make up for the energy deficit should be avoided as it will lead to the accumulation of acid in the rumen, further increasing the risk of acidosis.

"Instead, choose a rumen-protected fat supplement.”

Silage expert at Volac Peter Smith says this can be achieved through regular silage sampling.

Mr Smith says: "While initial silage quality samples should have been collected once fermentation had been completed six weeks after harvest, monthly quality tests should also be taken once feeding begins.

“Ideally, producers will also be sampling silage for dry matter (DM) content each week to ensure accurate ration formulation.

“But if that is not practical, it is essential to conduct DM tests at least every fortnight, especially in periods of wet weather.”

Dr Richard Kirkland at Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients reiterated this, saying that balancing a winter ration should begin with silage analysis to fully understand the quality of basal forage.

Dr Kirkland says: “This is needed to enable appropriate supplementation for key macro nutrients, including fibre and protein, and to meet requirements for total metabolisable energy (ME).”

“With an increasing trend in the dairy industry to adopt multi-cut silage systems, further attention to detail is needed to balance these high-energy, low-fibre forages.”