Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Analyse maize silage to balance starch levels

January 2, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Early results from maize silage analysis results suggest variable starch quality this winter – prompting reminders to ensure rations are balanced to maximise cow health and productivity.

Tests suggest some maize silage is high in starch – but other silage is low, says Rob Fowkes, nutritional advisor with Quality Liquid Feeds. Producers should test forage stocks to determine levels on their own farms, he says.

“There are health and productivity implications associated with both of these scenarios, be that ruminal acidosis from feeding too much starch, or reduced productivity due to poor rumen function from reduced levels,” says Mr Fowkes.

Cow health

“For this reason, it’s critical that farmers get their maize silage tested to help them understand exactly what they’re working with. Rations can then be accurately balanced to drive cow health and productivity, while maximising the value of home-grown forages.”

For those with lower levels of starch, Mr Fowkes recommends considering adding extra cereals to the ration. “Imported whole maize is a very good option at the moment as it’s very competitively priced because of the high UK wheat price.”

Another way to balance out low starch levels is to include sugar in the diet. Adding a molasses-based product, such as Dairy SugR, provides an economical source of carbohydrate, in the form of six carbon sugars, says Mr Fowkes.

“By including these six carbon sugars at 5-7% of the ration, overall efficiency, rumen function, and productivity will increase, which ultimately drive the bottom line.”

Milk from forage

Dairy farmers who have access to high starch maize have a huge milk-from-forage potential. But it is important to balance silage intake with other nutritional requirements. Higher starch levels in maize forage means higher propionic fermentation in the rumen.

This equals higher milk yields and milk protein. But getting the fermentable metabolizable energy (FME) to effective rumen degradable protein (ERDP) ratio correct is essential to achieve this and minimise the risk of ruminal acidosis.

For this reason, high starch maize silages need balancing with a higher degradable protein. One of the options is to include a timed-release-protein to help increase rumen efficiency by supplying rumen micro-organisms with a constant supply of energy and non-protein nitrogen.

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