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Rationing a co-product into an organic dairy diet

There isn’t a huge amount of choice of organic co-products to feed. However four years ago, Philip Hayes our ForFarmers Account Manager spoke to us about including Okara in the cow’s diet and we’ve used it as part of the winter diet ever since. 

Daniel Heys is farm manager of the 350-strong mixed breed organic dairy unit on the Flasby Estate, near Skipton in Yorkshire. As well as a dairy unit thee 730 ha estate has a flock of 300 sheep, a 30-strong highland beef cattle herd and woodland enterprises.

The all year round calving herd has an average yield of 7,000 litres (4% fat and 3.25% protein) per cow. About 25 ha are down to wholecrop wheat and the estate has 183 ha of grass/clover leys.

Daniel Heys

Finding a solution to increasing feed costs

Feed costs in the winter had been increasing and Daniel spoke to ForFarmers account manager Philip Hayes about how to address this while maintaining milk yield and quality.

“There isn’t a huge amount of choice of organic co-products to feed,” says Daniel “We were feeding a 20% protein blend to the cows over the winter, at a rate of 6Kg per day per cow and costs were mounting up,” says Daniel. “Four years ago Philip spoke to us about including Okara in the cow’s diet and we’ve used it as part of the winter diet ever since.”

What is Okara?

“Okara is a co-product of organic tofu production and is a moist pulp consisting of the insoluble parts of soybean. It is high in fibre, energy and protein and contains moderate amounts of starch and sugar. Both the production process and the product are approved by the Soil Association, making it ideal for use on organic farms,” explains ForFarmers Account Manager, Philip Hayes.

“The high protein and energy content of Okara make it a really good option for organic dairy enterprises for use alongside forage or in a total mixed ration. It provides a cost-effective alternative to organic soyabean meal or other organic proteins. The high oil content limits the inclusion rate to about 5-6 kg/head/day in most dairy rations.

“The product comes in 1-tonne tote bags and is distributed from Yorkshire, making it ideal for those based in the North of England and the Midlands, but can also be delivered nationwide. The product stores for about a week in bags, or can be clamped and sheeted sheeted tightly (or covered with an edible cover) to exclude all air. Once ensiled, the product will store for approximately three months,” he adds.

Organic cows grazing

The benefits

The winter feed ration on the farm now consists of 2 Kg of 28% protein ForFarmers Pellemix, 1.5 Kg of cereal blend, 4 Kg of Okara, 5 Kg of wholecrop silage and about 12 Kg of grass silage.

“By including Okara in the cow’s diet we have managed to drop our blend down from 6Kg to to 4Kg/cow/ day,” says Daniel. “This has saved us somewhere in the region of 60p / cow / day, which really adds up over a winter.

“We worked with Philip over the first few months of inclusion to ensure that butterfat levels didn’t drop as Okara is high in oil. As organic milk producers we can be pretty limited with our choice of cost-effective co-products so adding Okara to the diet makes real sense,” Daniel concludes.

For more information

For more information about organic diets or Okara please speak to your local ForFarmers account manager, call 08700 500 306 or enquire online here.