We are coming out of one of the toughest winters in terms of forage stocks in recent memory and although the grass is not blowing in the wind quite yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is time to be planning forage stocks.
There are many options when it comes to bolstering your feed stocks for the future, but some are far more costly than others when all is considered. We are entering a time where it is going to be harder and harder to run dairy farms with high stocking rates, due to ammonia legislations and proposed phosphorus regulations. This, combined with ever more competition for land form AD plants, other dairy businesses and non-agricultural land use, means that dairies and other livestock enterprises have to be as efficient with cropping, land use and feed supplies than ever. There is an obvious hang over from the current period of unprecedented levels of forage, that will lead to some very inflated prices for forage crops or substitutes. Below are some key points to consider if you are in the market for more food.
Know what you need
235 acre (95Ha) farm with only dairy cows, milking 200 cows selling 8500L per cow per year, looking at what currently happens
- A dairy cow will use around 12kgDM of feed for every 1 kg of milk solids per year. Below is an example how to calculate how much feed you need
- For 200 cows, you will need 1028 tonnes of dry matter
- Assume the farm grazes 35Ha and grows 9TDM/Ha This supplies 325 tDM
- 10Ha of maize yielding 13T/ha as fed (16t/acre fresh weight after losses at 33% DM) Supplies 130 tDM
- The remaining 50ha (124 acres) produces on average 11 TDM/ha (13.4t/fresh/acre) Supplies 550T
- The farm is in deficit by 23T
Usually, this would not be much of an issue, as rollover stocks or forage/forage replacers can fill the gap. But with poor yields last year and brewers grains costing £200/tDM and forages bought out of clamps costing £150/tDM, these sums come under a lot of scrutiny. Increasing forage production where possible would be the first step.
It is always hard to cost in the value of protein or energy accurately when comparing feeds, but an educated attempt is better than nothing.
Make more from your land
The range in crop yields are phenomenal when actually measured. The biggest variation is often in grassland, where there can be a spread of 6t/DM to 13t/DMHa grown and utilised on the best farms. There are many ways to improve on farm yield, of which we have covered in other articles (see our website) but here are some key points to maximise farm utilisation.
- Use rotational grazing of the right type of cow
- Grow the right crops for your farm and herd
- Test and properly manage your soil using trained agronomists
- Reseed, reduce compaction and manage grass as a crop
- Manage slurry as a fertiliser not a waste product
- Reduce waste or ‘Shrink’ of silage
- Double crop/use catch crops to ensure fields are always productive
- Embrace technology to help measure yield and accurately apply nutrients
After getting the most from your farmed area, you may still be better off buying in extra feed, whether that is clamp silage, moist feeds, more concentrates or standing crops. Whichever you do, be sure to do your maths before any purchases, to avoid being caught out. It is always hard to cost in the value of protein or energy accurately when comparing feeds, but an educated attempt is better than nothing. Below is an example of comparing two options, where there is deficit of 150 tonnes of Dry Matter.
As you can see from this comparison, there is little difference in the cost of these two options when fully calculated, with the maize option being cheaper for ME and starch, but would mean more expense needed to balance the protein, which works out substantially cheaper in the Wheatfeed option. There are other factors, such as slurry management and the effect on the rest of the ration – especially NDF pools, slurry management and storage logistics, but it certainly highlights the need to do through calculations when deciding what extra feed to buy.
With uncertainty around feed prices, due to the volatility of currency, along with a falling milk price, feeding decisions will be put under ever increasing scrutiny over the coming months. Making the most from your farmed area and being thorough with any feed purchasing calculations will stand your dairy business in good stead for the future.
Making the most from your farmed area and being thorough with any feed purchasing calculations will stand your dairy business in good stead for the future.
Dairy Technical Specialist
m: 07876 824314