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Dairy farmers are being urged to start planning now for winter feeding to ensure cows receive consistent rations and achieve optimum milk yields. With... Plan ahead to formulate consistent winter rations

Dairy farmers are being urged to start planning now for winter feeding to ensure cows receive consistent rations and achieve optimum milk yields.

With varying silage quality experienced this year, nutrition experts say it is important for dairy farmers to undertake analysis of their forages to gain an accurate picture of the quality of their silages.

“Measuring silage clamps and assessing the quantity of forages available to them is equally important,” says Csaba Adamik, livestock nutrition manager for Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

Once farmers are aware of their silage quality and quality, they can plan ahead to ensure their rations are balanced to meet their cows’ needs throughout the winter months, explains Mr Adamik.

“It should help them to achieve optimum milk production in a financially and environmentally sustainable manner. Where silage quality changes throughout winter, rations should be reformulated to maintain optimum nutrient levels.”

Clamp management

Farmers should pay close attention to clamp management and aim to feed a consistent ration every day. To minimise waste, producers should feed out in a vertical column from the clamp to ensure silage quality is consistent in every mix.

“Producers should also aim to move across the whole clamp face in less than three or four days,” says Mr Adamik.

“In case of very wide clamp faces, taking shallower grabs, rather than full grabs will help to avoid silage being exposed to oxygen for too long, as that can affect aerobic stability of the silage negatively.”

Mr Adamik says how the ration is delivered, should be another area of focus. “Feeding out wagon mix rations between milkings, and not at milking time, increases feeding bouts and can improve feed efficiency by as much as 7%.

“In addition, pushing feed up regularly and feeding twice a day or more increases dry matter intakes, reduces sorting, and leads to increased lying time and improved rumination activity.”

Balanced ration

Feeding a rumen-specific live yeast, like Levucell SC, can help balance rations while delivering environmental benefits. The yeast optimises rumen function, increasing ration digestibility and feed efficiency so cows get more from available feed.

“Studies have shown that inclusion of the live yeast in rations improves feed efficiency by 3-6% in lactation and subsequently reduces the carbon footprint of milk production by up to 6%,” says Mr Adamik.

“When fed prior to calving, the yeast reduces body weight loss and promotes early lactation feed intake,” he explains. “This, combined with the improved feed efficiency during lactation has the potential to improve milk yields by up to 8%, making a significant contribution to sustainable milk production.”