November 2017 Monthly Management

Forage Budgeting - What to do when short on forage

In many parts of the country fodder is scarce. For those who think they can scrape through, a late spring could cause problems and it is better to act now It is important that all farmers immediately assess their forage position, i.e. quality and quantity of silage stocks. To calculate quantity, measure the size of the pit – length x width x average settled height to find the volume of the silage pit in meters³. Next, multiply the volume by 68 to convert to tonnes (calculation based of 25%DM silage). Once the quantity of silage is determined, the next step will be to calculate the demand. The average intakes of the different cattle groups are given in the table below.

Pit silage needed per month (t) Bales needed per month (t)
Dairy Cow 1.6 1.8
Suckler Cow 1.4 1.6
In-Calf Heifer 1.3 1.4
Weanling 0.7 0.8
Store Cattle 1.3 1.4
Source: Teasasc

For example, a farm with 60 dairy cows, 15 replacement heifers and 15 weanlings will require 126 tonnes of silage per month to meet intakes.

What can you do if you are short of forage?

Reduce demand: Are we feeding stock we should not have? 
It is important to have forage for our most productive animal i.e. cows in the few weeks before calving and for the milking cow after calving. Other cattle examples such as cull cows or store cattle can be sold or at least evaluate their worth in terms of what it is going to cost to buy feed for them.

Buy forage 
There is a minimum quantity of forage required in the diet. For dry cows and weanlings, you would like to have at least 50% forage on a dry matter basis. The option of purchasing silage could be considered if it is value for money and good quality.

Fodder Stretchers 
In Drinagh we have developed an economy mix to bridge the gap where silage is scarce. In formulating this diet, we have blended a number of ingredients, balancing this forage while also meeting the cows needs The best advice to reduce your demand for silage is to replace with concentrates. How is this best achieved? Start feeding the animals ad-lib silage for 7-10 days. Following that period, you now know consumption levels. 1kg of concentrates will replace 5kg of grass silage (this calculation is based on 68 DMD silage).

Example diet:
Reduce silage to 30kg/cow and the remainder is made up with 4kg of concentrate/mix

Alternative Feeds
There are a range of feeds available but in a scarce fodder situation and high demand they are often poor value for money. Examples are fodder beet, whole crop, maize silage, straw, and brewer’s grains - these are all options but their relative cost to grass silage or concentrates must be considered.

Drinagh Silage Analysis

Our new scanner pictured at Drinagh.

Silage quality analysis is an essential part of formulating diets. Where the quality of the silage is not known, it can lead to losses through reduced performance or over supplementation of concentrates. From samples tested to date, many silages are wet and poor in quality. 

Drinagh Advisory Services can analyse forages for our customers with our new Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) Scanner. This device is capable of analysing a range of forages including; grass silage, maize silage, wholecrop silage, fresh grass and moist concentrate feed. The nutrients analysed include dry matter, crude protein, dry matter digestibility (DMD), metabolisable energy, NDF, ADF, starch, sugar, pH and lactic acid. This process will allow farmers to obtain instant and comprehensive results within minutes of testing. 

By optimising these real time forage analysis results with the addition of nutritional advice, an optimal overall feeding programme for any group of livestock on farm can be formulated.

To find out more on silage analysis and to arrange a test, please contact Tim Regan or Darren Lynch for further information.

Winter Dairy Workshop

Drinagh Co-op are hosting an Agri-Workshop on Tuesday the 6th December in the West Cork Hotel Skibbereen from 2.30pm to 8.30pm. Key points of interest on the day will be: 

  • Milk Supply Agreement and Annual Agreed Volume with creamery staff 
  • Generator advice and information 
  • Tom Curran, Farm Management Specialist with Teagasc on Collaborative farming information (incl. Contract heifer rearing & Farm Partnerships) 
  • Calf rearing with Mr. Martin Kavanagh, veterinarian and dairy herd health consultant 
  • Herd health planning with Dr. Doreen Corridan, Munster Cattle Breeding Group 
  • Drinagh Mill staff and sales representatives will be available to discuss about animal nutrition issues, forage analysis and winter feeding plans

Also present will be personnel from Teagasc, Munster AI, ICBF, PastureBase, financial institutions and other industry experts providing free advice, information and demonstrations on a range of products and services including

  • Dairy hygiene 
  • Animal health products 
  • Minerals 
  • Farm management software

Don’t miss this opportunity to avail of FREE information across a range of areas on a one to one basis.

Drinagh co-op Mineral RANGE 2016/2017

Feeding a high quality mineral is a crucial part in planning for the year ahead. It is one of the easiest and most cost effective measures to do in order to get cows on track for a productive, healthy and fertile lactation.

Drinagh Co-op High Spec Pre-Calver contains an excellent health package, providing all the essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements to meet the requirements of the cow and calf.

SPECIAL OFFER on Drinagh Pre-Calver Bagged minerals

Contact your local branch or sales representative for more details



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