Managing on-farm  feed requirements

Managing on-farm feed requirements

23 October 2018

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to meeting spring productivity goals and for farmers throughout the country, optimising dollar performance and maximising productivity will be top of mind.

While the vast majority of feed remains pasture, supplementary feeds can play a role on-farm to fill feed deficits so that cows maintain energy intake and production. Following the introduction of Fonterra’s new fat evaluation index on 1 September, feed blends have really come into their own.

The use of palm kernel expeller (PKE) as a supplementary feed has become increasingly popular as a relatively cheap feed option. However, high use of PKE can increase the fat content in milk which has led to some challenges for Fonterra manufacturing certain products. Consequently, the FEI grading system was put in place, and farmers supplying milk with higher-than-acceptable levels of FEI now incur demerits and financial penalties.

"For a lot of farmers, this isn’t a problem but the ones who have been heavy users of PKE are now mixing up their feed options and using more blends to lower the FEI," says Santana Hauraki, Agrifeeds Animal Nutrition Sales Representative for the Waikato.

Transitioning to high-quality feed blends like PKE with molasses can help farmers not only reduce FEI significantly in a short period of time, but also makes financial sense and can help drive better returns for the farmer by addressing any nutrient gaps which helps to increase milk production.

"Understanding which nutrients cows need and have access to, and which nutrients they are deficient in is the foundation block for tailoring a feed that suits that particular farm and cows at that particular stage of lactation" says Santana.

"Better returns (milk production, improved reproductive peformance, animal health benefits) can be gained by combining other products with PKE to ensure cows are fully fed"

Francis Kraakman of Putaruru agrees with Santana. He’s been using PKExtra10 (with 10 percent molasses) for the past two years with great success. “The mix has really helped the cows to eat it as it has good palatability.

"Before we switched, we used straight PKE with tapioca or wheatbran. The change to the blend has definitely given us peace of mind as we would have been in trouble if we hadn’t altered the blend before the FEI changes came into effect in September."

Francis and his family farm 430 cows just outside of Putaruru, where they’ve been for almost 31 years. "We bought 40 hectares off my parents in 1988 and now we have nearly 200 hectares."

Ed Grayling has been using PKE on its own and PKExtra20 (20 percent molasses) for about 10 years. "It’s easy to manage and it’s good value for money. We definitely get a good response in terms of both milk production and body condition. It fits into our management system and also mixes well with maize silage.

"It gives us a lot of flexibility as we can feed it to young stock too, and stop and start feeding as required."

Ed and his family farm 370 cows just south of Hamilton city.

Warren Coulson, TSR for Farm Source Matamata says animal health is a key focus going into summer. "It might sound crazy but we’re getting ready to deal with a potentially dry summer so we’re thinking about where they’re going to source their protein for their animals."

Having good transition feeds and good cow maintenance will help ensure cows are as healthy as possible and reach their full milking potential.

Both Ed and Francis have high praise for the team at Farm Source. "I deal with all of the people at my local Farm Source store and find them very helpful. I’m always telling them they are part of my team," says Francis.

Further south, Stewart Porter farms 580 cows on 188 hectares effective at Atiamuri, about 40 minutes from Rotorua. He and his wife have been there about 10 years and sharemilking for the last five.

Stewart says: “We’ve been using a mix of everything - PKE liquid blends with molasses, plus tapioca, soy hull, biscuit cereal meal and the new corn gluten pellets. We’ve had no problems at all and have been getting good results

.

"The cows really go for it and have been cleaning up the trays. They like the variety and the blends have really good flow through the equipment which saves us time as we don’t have to tap the cones when they clog up. It comes out easily and it’s easier for the cows to eat it.

"We only have so much time in the shed when milking and, with PKE, the cows don’t have time to eat 4kg of the stuff. We need to get as much of the quality stuff into them as we can. Because the blends are sweeter, they can scoff it in the time available. I guess it’s a bit like lollies for them!" says Stewart.

Agrifeeds have also created a range of ready to go blends for farmers wanting to move away from straight PKE but still wanting better returns. The Pro Blends range are high energy and protein blends to help meet dairy cows nutritional requirements and ensure good milk production is achieved.

Now is the time to plan your feed requirements for this summer and beyond. Contact your local Farm Source TSR for more information or to discuss your feed options.

Article supplied by Agrifeeds