Mind the gap

Prolonged periods of hot weather and low rainfall during the summer for many means farms are looking for solutions to forage shortfalls. ForFarmers Product Manager Bruce Forshaw explains what you can do now to avoid major consequences from shortages later in the year.

Dairy Nutrition
Jerseys in summer heat 2018 - ForFarmers UK

“Most of our customers in the south of the country have been buffer feeding and eating into winter stocks since July. Some were even on full winter rations in August,” he said. “Together with the hot dry summer and lack of nitrogen applications, due to price increases and product shortages, this has created a perfect storm of issues as we move into the later part of the year.”

However, all is not lost for those who find themselves with a forage shortfall. There are a range of options and feed solutions to help extend and complement your normal rations and forage resources.

Measure and assess first

Bruce recommends starting by understanding how much silage you have available in your clamp. Evaluating your current resources will help determine feeding strategies and purchasing decisions.

Both tonnage and feed value of your available silage needs to be assessed says Bruce: “Measuring the amount of silage in the clamp is important, especially if it has already been opened due to grass shortages. Having an accurate figure can help you prepare for any shortfalls which may occur later in the year.”

Differences in silage quality should also be considered. “Knowing the feed value and nutritional composition of what is in your clamp will ensure that you are able to be more targeted and efficient with any supplementary feeding,” he explains.

Analysis of this year’s first cut has shown that what has been produced is reasonable quality, has a good rumination index and is therefore rumen friendly. However, with soaring nitrogen prices, many farmers will have reduced applications, and this will also have affected silage quality says Bruce: “Cuts have been more fibrous, and this will affect milk production.”

Once you have assessed what you already have available it is important to look at alternative feedstuff and options for extending your resources to compensate for any shortfalls. “It is important to act now,” says Bruce. “By intervening quickly, you can reduce the likelihood of a larger shortfall across the rest of the year.”

Make the most of what you have

There are several options available explains Bruce. Consider first what resources you already have available on farm, such as straw: “If you have straw, use it to bulk out the diet.”Make the most of any later cuts of silage by using a silage additive. The right additive can help to retain and maximise the quality of your silage, while also reducing dry matter losses, heating and waste, says Bruce.

Extend current resources

If you need to supplement your current ration, moist feeds such as SelcoPlus, AmyPlus and brewer’s grains can all work well, explains Bruce.

SelcoPlus is a performance moist blend which is nutritionally rich in both energy and protein and can be added to rations to balance a variety of forage mixes and drive intakes. AmyPlus is another moist feed which is high in energy and protein, and can provide a cost-effective option to balance a variety of TMR and PMR as well as support forage shortfalls. Brewer’s grains can also provide a cost-effective means of supplementing forage shortfalls.

For those looking to extend their rations, Blendmix Forage Replacer can provide a good option. This performance blendmix is designed to provide a mixture of starch and fibre sources alongside Levucell live yeast to increase feed efficiency and boost milk and meat production.

Evershot Farm 2

Alternative forage options

Forage crops such as brassicas can provide a good option for both autumn and out-wintering stock. Various options are available including forage rape, stubble turnips, hybrid brassicas, and mixtures.

Forage stocks can also be boosted with fast growing Italian Grasses. This short-term option can provide a small yield in autumn but will also provide good yields in spring as it overwinters well.

Plan for next year

In the long term, and when conditions allow, consider reseeding your grass leys with a TOPGRASS Ryegrass PLUS to reduce the risk of future shortfalls. This grass mix contains varieties which are more stress tolerant and can cope better with seasonal extremes, helping to maximise yields and quality in dry conditions.

Overseeding with TOPGRASS Leybooster can also provide a shorterterm option to reinvigorate leys and increase both yield and quality.

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