Feed2Milk is a new nutrition concept from ForFarmers. ForFarmers ruminant product manager Nick Berni explains.
Spring is at last in sight after a sometimes difficult winter and many dairy producers are reflecting on some disappointments in forage performance. The phrase ‘silage did not perform as predicted’ has been all-too-commonly heard, as producers have suffered a variety of set-backs through weather, the maturity of grass at harvest or challenges to good fermentation in the clamp.
Nick Berni says: “Earlier in the year, ForFarmers launched its new forage analysis service, SilageManager, which has helped a number of farms work through these problems by providing a more precise analysis.
Alongside it the company has launched the nutrition concept of Feed2Milk, which Mr Berni says does far more than the standard systems of simply taking parameters like crude protein (CP) and metabolisable energy (ME) and making up the shortfalls.
“Instead, it predicts how forage and feeds are broken down, what nutrients they produce, where these nutrients are utilised – whether in the rumen or the intestine – and what effect this has on animal performance in terms of milk yield and rumen health,” he says.
“They are not figures farmers will be familiar with but they’re part of a new concept being delivered by ForFarmers in the field which is helping producers reveal far more about their own herds’ potential performance,” he says. “They’re giving a far better understanding of how each producer’s own forages will perform in the cow, and allowing our nutritionists to put in place the most effective nutritional solution on that farm.
“Our own Feed2Milk range of feeds has been developed with this in mind and has been used throughout the winter on over 50 trial farms across Great Britain,” he says. “The results have lived up to our expectations in every way and shown convincingly that the new approach really works.”
The results showed an average increase of 1.8 litres/ cow/day with a range of 0.5-8.0 litres/cow/day. The value of extra milk production on the trial farms was, on average, worth £14/cow/month.
There was also an improvement in feed efficiency with an average 0.04kg/litre reduction in feed rate. This led to an average saving of £6/ cow/month in feed costs, or a potential extra 700 litres per cow produced from forage.
“These figures simply corroborate what has been found elsewhere in Europe as the concept has been working successfully in the Netherlands for four years and was more recently introduced to Germany.”
The Dutch performance benefit of 279kg extra milk per cow and 0.04 per cent extra protein was an average from some 2,000 herds, with the financial benefit worth an extra £141/cow/year.
Germany’s earlier-stage trials are also revealing encouraging performance benefits for milk, fat and protein, and producers are also noting improvements in dairy cow health.
“We’re delighted the concept is now available in the UK and that it has provided such encouraging results for our trial farmers over winter,” he says. “We are now confident we are able to identify nutritional issues in UK silage which would not be uncovered by the classic crude measures, and that from this we can formulate a better feed solution using Feed2Milk.”
FOR Cornish dairy producer James Warren, October and November are usually the most difficult months of the year. Production generally hits its lowest ebb as a relatively large proportion of the year-round calving herd heads towards the end of lactation, and the cows are also settling on to their winter ration.
This winter came with added challenges as first cut silage proved to be more acidic than in previous years, and complementing it with wheat presented a greater than usual acidosis risk.
“I was really happy to go on the Feed2Milk trial when I was asked by our nutritionist Matt Jenkin, especially when I learned the feed I would be using was high MELK and low RFC and included ingredients like maize, which we knew should suit our grass silage,” says Mr Warren.
Farming with his parents, Dennis and Rosemary at Tredinney Farm in St Buryan, near Penzance, the 300 head herd – comprising 115 Guernseys, 110 Jerseys and 75 Holsteins – was moved on to the trial compound, Maxima Milk 16, in October 2016.
Using a lower TDP (16 per cent protein) feed was a departure from the norm, but Mr Warren says he was prepared to take this route as protein in his grass silage was high.
This was despite the herd being relatively high production, with Holsteins giving 10,400kg, Guernseys 7,200kg and Jerseys producing 6,750kg.
Production initially held up well, marginally increasing from 19 litres/cow/day before the trial to 19.45 litres throughout October. Butterfats also increased to 4.92% (previously 4.70 per cent) and proteins rose to 3.81 per cent (previously 3.66 per cent).
“However, we thought we could get more out of the cows so we decided to increase the TDP of the overall diet,” says Mr Warren. “We were also bringing in extra maize silage as the winter progressed, which pulled the overall protein in the ration down so it seemed the right time to change.”
Switching to a higher TDP feed, Maxima Milk 18, in November saw a further increase in performance and by December, production had reached 21.7 litres/cow/day while butterfats and protein continued to exceed pre-trial levels. (See table below).
The base ration, comprising grass and maize silage, wholecrop wheat, fodder beet, a 25 per cent protein blend and molasses is fed for maintenance plus 16 litres, and cake in the parlour is fed to yield.
“Our figures from October to December show the amount of cake fed has actually gone down,” says Mr Warren. “Before the trial we were using 0.39kg/litre but our December figures show 0.36kg/litre.”
Also observing the health and condition of the cows, he says: “The cows were cudding more aggressively on the new feed and were more contented.
“Getting extra litres at this time of year was very unusual as we actually increased volume when production is normally going down,” he says.
Increasing quality at the same time as volume was even more welcome as the business is due to move to a Rhodda’s contract in April 2017 where high kilos of milk solids will maximise milk price.
Even on the current milk contract the financial gains were impressive, with a 2.3-litre/ cow/day gain lifting production by 18,600 litres for the herd for December. With an extra 1,586kg of fat and protein also produced that month, just one month’s income was increased by £5,111.28.
Mr Warren says he has no hesitation in keeping the herd on the Feed2Milk nutrition concept, believing the evidence on his own farm has been compelling.
“Cows are looking great, bulling well and show no signs of acidosis, which I’m certain would have been an issue if we’d fed high levels of wheat [which is high in RFC and AI] on top of our acidic first cut silage,” he says.
“Instead, they have milked the best they’ve ever done at a time of year when production is normally going down.”
Visit the series Hub page for more articles, links and project information.