Monday 19 October 2020British Dairying - Co-products: So Much More Than Forage Extenders

In years when forage yields are good, it's tempting to formulate a winter-feeding plan that relies heavily on silage. But if you want to ensure livestock performance and be economically pragmatic there may be other factors to take into account. 

With the ideal balance of sun and rain, 2020 has been a perfect forage-growing year. Clamps are reasonably full and bales are stacked high, so winter feeding looks easy. The ready availability of forage means all you need is bit of dry concentrate as top-up, right? Well, there might be more to it than that.  

Planning your winter feed regime

You only have to look back over the last few years to recall that not every year brings in a harvest like 2020. Forward planning is crucial to a successful farming enterprise, which means it makes sense to hold back forage in case of a poor yield next year. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, so while feeding all of your forage reserves this winter might seem the best option, it may not be the most sensible long-term plan.

As it remains the foundation of many rations, it’s important to understand the nutritional value of your forage and work out how best to support it. Having your forage professionally analysed lets you understand its value. With that knowledge to hand, you can fine-tune your ration to ensure it’s balanced and meets your needs. Unless you’re lucky enough to have only the best quality, you’ll need to supplement your ration to ensure appropriate nutrient density. It’s likely that your first and second cuts of grass silage will be nutrient-dense, but later cuts will start to decline in quality.

When you have high-performing cattle over-wintering indoors, getting the feed balance right can be tricky. Their nutrient demands are high and there’s only so much dry matter they can physically consume – so it’s crucial that every mouthful delivers what’s needed. High-yielding dairy cows in early lactation, for example, can experience a negative energy balance. This means they simply cannot take in sufficient dry matter to meet the demands of milk production, so fat stores are raided and condition is lost.

While forage combined with a dry concentrate top-up might make short-term economic sense, it may not result in optimum performance. Ration palatability and appealing presentation – sometimes lacking in pellet feeds – are the keys to maximising uptake.

Why feed co-products with forage?

Sometimes mistakenly seen just as forage extenders, co-product feeds actually serve the same purpose as traditional dry concentrates. And they have some extra tricks up their sleeves, too. Because they add variety, flavour and appealing aroma to a total mixed ration, co-products are seen to improve uptake. Choose a moist option, and there’s also the benefit of added succulence.

Understanding the nutritional value of your feed can be complicated, so a feed that’s reliable in both presentation and nutritional terms is a bonus. Because co-products are derived from the highly regulated human food industry, you can depend on them to be consistent. And your pocket will be happy, too, as they’re a cost effective way to provide your livestock with the same nutrients they’d get from dry concentrates.

The wide variety of co-products available means there’s an option to suit every herd and to complement every forage regime. Brewer’s grains and wheat syrups deliver high-quality protein, while potato products are sources of readily fermentable energy. If you want to improve your butter fats, turn to citrus pulp. It’s highly digestible as well as being an excellent aid to driving forage intake because of its sweet aroma. Yeast-enriched syrups – rich in energy and protein – promote healthy gut function, reduce dust in your TMR and are highly palatable, so sorting is limited. Tank-storage of syrups makes them easy to use and avoids waste.

To keep housed cattle performing consistently, it’s vital to keep them eating consistently. Large meals of rapidly digested dry concentrates can suppress appetite and reduce DM intake. Given the opportunity to browse a co-product ration that tastes and smells appealing, voluntary feed intake can increase.

Making economic sense of silage

Silage may be the traditional choice, but it’s worth doing the calculations to see if there’s a cost effective alternative that does an equally good – or better – job. Grass silage is infamously variable in terms of yield and quality, while maize silage needs time to mature in order to deliver optimum digestibility. So it’s sensible to have an alternative on hand to avoid the need to open the clamp too soon.

Your five-year (or ten-year) farming plan needs the certainty of forage supply, so it’s important to carry enough over to the next year to feed the livestock you have now and any headcount increases you may be planning. And if it has proven expensive to produce this season’s forage, spreading the cost over two years could be more cost effective.

It’s also worth considering how you use your land. If producing forage isn’t economical – because of combined rent, fertilizer and contractor costs – is there a permanent alternative? If you could exploit the land for another, better income, readily available and affordable co-product feeds could step into the gap left by forage and also have the added benefit of reducing total feed costs.

Ration Comparisons

The example rations shown below are for M+40 litres. They demonstrate the effectiveness of moist feeds as a replacement for dry feeds. As well as having equal or positive effects on performance, Duynie moist feeds actively encourage higher uptake of feed by adding succulence and palatability to a TMR. And there are other tangible benefits. Brewer’s grains, for example, are a traditional protein source, low in starch and high in digestible fibre, which makes them safe to feed in high levels with minimal risk of acidosis.

The example rations are based on:

  • Grass silage assumed at 30%DM, 11MJ/kgDM, 14%CP
  • Maize silage assumed at 32%DM, 11.4 MJ/kgDM, 8%CP
  • Maize and grass silage ration – 4kg of dry feed replaced with brewer’s grains and bread
  • Maize and grass silage ration – 55% of the total dry matter is from forage
  • Grass silage ration – 2.7kg of dry feed replaced with brewer’s grains and raw potato chips
  • Grass silage ration – 47% of the total dry matter is from forage 
  • Demonstrates cost saving of including moist co-products in the rations, using current market prices

 

Maize & Grass Silage

 

Grass Silage

Feeds

Dry Feed

Moist

Co-products

 

Dry Feed

Moist

Co-products

Grass Silage

25.0

25.0

 

38.00

38.0

Maize Silage

20.0

20.0

 

0

0

Dr. Mol. S.B.P.

3.00

1.25

 

2.00

1.25

Rapeseed (00) Ext

2.50

1.50

 

1.75

0.80

DDG Wheat

1.25

1.25

 

2.00

2.00

Barley

3.00

1.75

 

2.50

2.50

Wheatfeed

0

0

 

3.00

2.00

B Grains (MF)

0

8.0

 

0

7.5

Raw Potato Chips (Duynie)

0

0

 

0

3.5

Bread Processed

0

2.00

 

0

0

Duynie Dairy GP Mins

0.10

0.10

 

0.10

0.10

CMP/BLE - 20% - 13ME

3.00

3.00

 

3.00

3.00

Total Fresh Intake

57.9

63.9

 

52.4

60.7

Cost/cow/day

(excluding forage costs)

 

£2.74

 

2.55

 

 

£2.92

 

£2.78

Saving/cow/305 days

£57.95

 

£42.70

Saving/100 cows/305 days

£5795

 

£4270

Nutrient Analysis

 

 

 

 

 

DMI (kg)

25.3

25.2

 

24.1

24.3

Forage DM (kg)

13.9

13.9

 

11.4

11.4

Dry Matter %

43.8

39.5

 

46.0

40.1

M.E. (MJ)

301

300

 

286

289

M/D (MJ/kgDM)

11.9

11.9

 

11.9

11.9

CP (%DM)

15.8

16.1

 

18.0

17.7

NDF (%DM)

38.5

40.2

 

38.1

39.7

Starch + Sugar (%DM)

22.7

22.3

 

19.8

19.1

Oil (%DM)

3.61

4.38

 

3.92

4.46

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