Whatever the production system, there is a strong correlation between milk from forage and profitability of milk production. Every 1,000 litres increase in milk from forage will be worth around £100 of gross margin per cow. Put simply, the more forage fed per cow per day, the more margin can be retained per litre of milk produced. This is due to the function of ruminants and their unique ability to harness energy from fibre and its cost advantage against feeding concentrates. The more efficient this process can be, the more margin can be made per milk sale.
By now all the forage for the following year is in the pit and it is now time to make the most of what you have, however good or bad. Forage management at feed out is a critical part of the jigsaw to optimising forage utilisation.
Here are a few pointers to improve your feed out management.
- Measure stocks – it is critical that you know how much is in stock. Plans can be made to add to inventories throughout the feed out period instead of running short and altering rations late on, putting pressure on cash flow and upsetting cows. It will also be useful to compare feedstocks to usage to measure waste
- Use up all loose silage daily as any loose silage is full of air and therefore aerobically unstable, allowing yeasts and moulds to develop.
- Use a shear grab, block cutter or rotary cutter at all times to minimise surface area exposed to spoiling
- Put ALL spoilt silage in the muck heap – your heifers are not a muck heap!
- Only move top sheets back enough for a couple of days to reduce spoilage
- Clean away rejected feed daily. You would never lick clean a plate with 3 day old food on it so don’t expect your cows to – it only reduces intake
The above points can make all the difference in improving efficiencies on farm. They may not seem much on a daily basis, but can add up to a significant amount of waste over a season, all adding to shrink. ‘Shrink’ is a measure of the amount of losses in forage making from what is grown, through to what is fed. Field, fermentation and pit sealing losses can range from 10 to 25%, whilst we cannot do anything about that now, we can help to reduce shrink from spoilt feed out and in the feed bunk. These losses have been measured at up to 10% and are entirely avoidable.