Rations and feed were some of the central topics at the large herd seminar in Tortworth, Gloucester, last week. Rhian Price reports.
Feed management on UK dairy farms must be improved, a leading US animal scientist has claimed.
Speaking on the second day of the large herd seminar Mike Van Amburgh from Cornell University, said there was a drive to reduce feed costs and improve nitrogen efficiency by reducing crude protein (CP) intakes.
However, he said many farmers and nutritionists overfeed crude protein as a “safety factor” because they are not confident farmers analyse forages or account for variations in dry matter.
He added: “Feeding management has got to get better.”
He explained that if a nutritionist decided to add on an extra 0.5% crude protein into a 15% CP ration for 500 cows, this would cost $0.21 a cow a day (£0.12 a cow a day) – the equivalent of $38, 325/year (£22, 366/year) .
“Generally we are way overfeeding protein.
“Farmers can save money by minimising variation and fine tuning the diet,” added Prof Van Amburgh.
But he warned attention to detail when it came to feed management was crucial in order to maintain performance with lower CP levels.
He said dry matter content needed to be analysed at least three times a week and a full nutritional analysis needed to be conducted as often as necessary to account for changes.
“Our highest performing, most profitable herds do dry matter [tests] everyday,” and Prof Van Amburgh said they were achieving average yields of 34kg/day when feeding 14.5% CP.