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15-02-2017

Accurate silage analysis helps improve ration on Cornish dairy farm

Afbeelding: Alec Boden web

Alec Bowden manages the dairy herd at Boswidjack Farm, near Falmouth, for the family partnership as part of WB Bowden and Sons. Collectively they manage 300 dairy cows, youngstock, a beef enterprise and arable land. Cows are currently achieving average milk yields of 8,500 litres, with 4.04% butterfat and 3.34% protein.  

Good quality, homegrown forage is the cornerstone of the herd’s ration and total milk from forage stands at an average of 3,400 litres.

“Getting silage quality right is key,” explains Alec. “If you can produce high quality silage, then you have a strong foundation. If silage quality is poor, then you are always going to be fighting an up-hill struggle to maintain the best cow performance.”

Cows are fed a partial TMR during the winter consisting of a high protein blend, home grown crimped corn, and plenty of grass and maize silage, topped up in parlour with concentrates to yield.

“In the spring and summer, we rely more heavily on good grazing, but buffer feed to maintain cow condition and performance,” continues Alec.

With grass and maize silage a key component of the herd’s feed, analysing their quality has always been important to ensure that rations are correctly balanced and cows receive the right nutritional support. However in the past, analysis results would sometimes throw up inaccuracies.  

“With traditional sampling, we would sometimes find that analysis came back saying silage was of good quality, but when we fed it to cows, it didn’t perform well,” Alec explains. “Yield wouldn’t necessarily drop, but cow condition would, and this was having a negative impact on fertility.”

Alec’s nutritionist, Matt Jenkin from ForFarmers, suggested that he try SilageManager, which employs dry NIR technology to get more accurate silage results.

“I am always interested in new technology and thought that it was worth giving a go,” continues Alec. “The results have been really good and the analysis appears to be much more consistent and accurate compared to before.

“This has allowed us to improve the accuracy of our ration composition and enable us to change supplementation levels when there is a dip or peak in quality. It is proving particularly useful with our maize silage, where there is often a long time between clamping and feeding out; resulting in inevitable variation in the quality of silage that we feed out at the start and towards the end of a clamp.”

“I would certainly recommend the service. It is cost effective and gives you peace of mind that you have accurate data, from which you can then formulate the most effective ration for your cows.”

About SilageManager

Afbeelding: clamp face

SilageManager is a new forage analysis service being offered by ForFarmers as part of its Feed2Milk initiative.  Inconsistencies in forage analysis are a common source of frustration for dairy producers. But accurate forage analysis is essential to ensure that cows are fed a balanced diet that complements supplies of forage, and provided with the right level of concentrate supplementation to achieve the most cost effective and productive results.

Drawing on experience and technology used in The Netherlands, ForFarmers UK has developed its forage analysis techniques to provide consistent, accurate results, and new sets of measures to give producers a better insight into their forage’s potential.

By drying and grinding samples before examining with Near Infared Spectroscopy (NIR), ForFarmers SilageManager analysis results are far more reliable compared to traditional wet sampling.

As well as the standard parameters, SilageManger also provides data on milk yield potential, digestible protein and rumen health risk; all of which provide information which can be used improve the accuracy of ration composition. By tweaking the ratio of feed components, producers can hope to achieve more milk from the same level of feeding, without compromising on cow health or performance.