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Preparing for the Upcoming Winter

Fortunately, conditions have improved to allow farmers to rebuild fodder stocks for the upcoming winter. It is important that a fodder budget has been completed to determine the nutritional requirements for the animals being accommodated this winter.

The recent weather conditions have allowed many farmers to conserve autumn grass as baled or pit silage to add to current forage stocks. Although it is very important to note that autumn grass will be lush, leafy, low in fibre and high in protein. The quality of autumn grass can be of high quality but will need at least 24-48 hours wilting, to increase dry matter content and reduce effluent. If possible, I would strongly recommend offering autumn conserved forage to housed animals first before other forage conserved earlier in the summer, as later conserved silage can be difficult to preserve due to high leafy content, greater buffering capacity and lower sugar content.

 

Feeding Stock

At this stage it will be very important to complete a fodder budget to determine the amount of feed required for the upcoming winter, also to identify the possible requirement for additional supplementary forage to ensure all animals have full nutritional requirements. It will be important to calculate all stocks of baled, pit silage and straw together with an estimation of animals being accommodated over the winter period. For forage maize and root crops it is best practice in each estimation to under calculate by approximately 10% to ensure a buffer to alleviate variations in dry matter content. Therefore, it is of significant importance to complete forage analysis to identify the quality of all conserved forages, as there can be big variations this year due to the extreme weather conditions in the summer. The general consensus of grass silage analysed is currently reporting high quality, high dry matter and dry matter digestibility.

 

In order to balance the shortfall in forage it is important to note that supplementary feeds must be balanced correctly from a nutritional perspective, to achieve desired performance in terms of live weight and milk yield. The correct proportion of energy, protein, and fibre must be matched to the type of animal. A general rule of thumb, offering 3-4 kg of concentrates will reduce grass silage demand by approximately 20-25%. Chopped straw can be added to the diet of dry cows, milking cows, replacement heifers, and weanlings over the winter period to reduce demand on grass silage stocks. In the incidence of offering a high content of chopped straw (above 1kg per head per day) the diet will need to be adjusted to ensure correct energy and protein content are matched to the respective growth stage of the animal.

 

My advice would be, if unsure or worried about current forage stocks for the upcoming winter please contact any representative from Connolly’s Red Mills for advice. Together with forward planning and key strategic decisions the burden will be reduced and hence cost can be reduced significantly.

For more information or assistance, contact the RED MILLS Team or call into our Agri Super Store in Cillin Hill.

  • Tags:
  • Agri
  • animal health
  • animal nutrition
  • Body Condition Scoring
  • cows
  • dairy
  • dry matter
  • feed
  • feeding programme
  • grazing
  • heifers
  • silage
  • transition period
  • winter feed