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Striving for quantity doesn’t always mean qualityJuly 2016

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Cathal Bohane, Head of InTouch nutrition

With first cut now in, it is time to take stock of your feed requirements for the winter period. Farms always strive for bulk, which is a logical approach but sometimes this is to the detriment of quality and the downfall of a good diet. Pressure due to stocking rate increases has led to smaller areas being available for silage. The issues associated with this are:

  • Heavier cuts to create bulk
  • No pre grazing of silage fields on ‘outside ground’
  • No reseeding to keep sward quality high on rented ground.

Silage analysis with DMD struggling to be 60+ and protein struggling to hit 10% is not too uncommon resulting in 9 kg+ of high protein concentrate for 27 litres cows and feeding >8 kg of concentrate to finish steers / heifers. Below this level performance; condition; health and fertility will suffer. The table below outlines some of the steps to increase quality.

Silage analysis improvment






Lifting the DMD by just 6-8 units could reduce meal inclusion by 2 kg per day, increasing silage usage, saving 30c/cow daily or €900/month for a 100 cow herd or €3000 for 100 finishing animals. This does not include the extra benefits of animal condition and health.

The first step is to complete a feed budget. If we know the requirement (fresh weight below) and the supply (pit/bales) we can determine what we need for second cut.

Feed budget





European and Scandinavian farmers cut 5-12times a year but if we could only reduce growing time by 2 weeks we could increase quality significantly. Can the contractor charge /hour, can we put out less fertiliser (2Units/day)?

Reducing the silage we need is another option as we can go lighter resulting in better quality. Work that KEENAN InTouch have done on farm with the use of straw in weanlings and dry cow diets has achieved this. Here is an example based on 100 cows, which will be dry for 70days; 30 replacements; 50 weanlings for 5month. The diet is fully costed with the concentrate; straw and 2nd cut silage at €160/t DM or €35/t fresh.

Silage saving





Other benefits of this diet would be

  1. Access to some concentrate before calving will help recovery and digestion after calving.
  2. Reduced metabolic; calving and production issues post calving as a lot of ‘good’ silage before calving leads to over conditioned cows.
  3. Surveys and scientific papers has shown metabolic issues can be reduced by over 50% saving €52/cow. (Data from 277 farms & almost 25,000 cows) by using KEENAN InTouch dry cow strategy.
  4. Feed cost saving are even higher due to silage costs on expensive rented ground.

For further information contact InTouch on 0599101320 (ROI) or 08005873297 (UK/NI)

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