The second in a special three-part series focusing on ration alkalising options.
In a bid to improve the rumen eﬃciency of their cows, the Clarkson family who milk 140 Holstein Friesians, twice daily, at Hazel Slack Farm, Barkisland, Halifax – have been exploring diet alkalisation options.
Jim Clarkson, who works alongside his son Richard and herdsman Tom Clapham, aims to make silage from young grass, which tends to be low in neutral detergent fibre (NDF) with high fermentability and excess acid load. He says because of this, they had to cut back on starch and add straw in order to keep the cows right, but this had also resulted in lower milk production and milk protein easing back.
They responded by alkalising the diet with the high protein feed AlkabupHa, which releases ammonia into the TMR to mitigate the threat of rumen acidosis.
Jim says: “The AlkabupHa allowed us to add starch back into the diet and reduce straw, and the cows responded almost immediately with more milk. They were also happier in themselves as it helped settle their guts.”
At that point, the cows were producing 30 litres a day, at 4%butterfat and almost 3.3%protein, on a total TMR diet. The starch level was being upheld by the addition of caustic soda wheat in the diet, which brought its own problems, as Jim explains.
“The soda wheat was so time consuming, it would take all afternoon to make, which is just not cost eﬀective, and it would tend to go past its best if left sitting for any length of time.”
The family’s nutrition adviser, Rob Cockroft of Cow Talk, also suggested using Alkagrain –another alkalising feed option, which makes better use of home grown or bought in cereals. He recommended it as a safe method of getting more starch into the cows and therefore driving milk proteins and helping fertility.
Rob says: “We added 30kg of FiveF’s Home n’ Dry pellets and 30kg of water, per tonne of wheat [making two, five-tonne batches at a time], mixed it in the feed wagon, and the whole process took less than an hour.
“It was then left to stand for two weeks under a sheet and rolled with the Clarksons’ own roller. Compared to using the caustic, this process saves about 2.5 hours and it is also 4.5%higher in protein and keeps for a lot longer.”
The Alkagrain was then added to the diet, and the amount of protein in the blend was adjusted, due to the Alkagrain being higher in protein than the caustic.
Rob adds: “The successful use of the AlkabupHa ensured the Clarksons had confidence to try Alkagrain, and using both has proved a great combination.”
Cows are currently averaging 32 litres a day, at 4.2% butterfat and 3.4% protein, and according to Jim, they are far happier too.
“The cows were running too close to the acidic edge prior to using the AlkabupHa and Alkagrain, but they are much more settled now. After calving they soon get to 45-55 litres and can be seen bulling from 25 DIM.
“The Alkagrain is a lot easier to use compared to the soda wheat we were making, and it’s saving us a lot of time too. We can also make a saving with a lower protein blend too. Any saving in the current climate is welcome.”