Failing to correctly balance the nutrient supply from grazing and prevent sub-acute ruminal acidosis at turnout can cut feed intakes by 5% or more, potentially reducing daily milk yields by up to 2.5 litres per cow. So says KW nutritionist Charlotte Ward.
“Inadequate or poorly formulated buffer rations will disrupt rumen fermentation, undermine feed conversion efficiency and reduce milk from forage,” she says. “The net result is a reduction in income over feed costs, rather than an increase – even if feed costs are cut.”
Butterfats can also be hit hard when fibre digestion in the rumen is compromised, impacting milk value. And issues such as mastitis and poor fertility will often increase when cows are suffering from sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA).
“Fresh grass is the cheapest feed available on-farm, so make the most of it by building high value buffer feeds that contain the structural and digestible fibre needed for good rumen function,” Ms Ward continues.
“Good silages, sugar beet feed, soya hulls and moist feeds, such as Traffordgold, will reduce the risk of SARA and support butterfats, as will switching to slower-release starch feeds like soda wheat and ground maize.”
She adds that if milk fat synthesis still needs a boost, producers should consider adding a high-C16 rumen-protected fat, and balance the predominantly rumen degradable protein in spring grass with feeds high in rumen-bypass protein, such as soyabean meal or NovaPro rumen-protected rapeseed expeller.