Whole-crop inclusion boosts forage intake

Andrew Jamison of Cloverhill Farm, near Stranocum in County Antrim, made the switch from sucklers to dairying in 2011, starting out with 30 Holstein heifers and a Lely Astronaut robotic milker.

Three years later, with 60 cows in milk, Andrew enjoys the fact he’s still learning every day, especially when it comes to feeding the high yielding dairy cow.

"One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that making the best quality forage and maximising the cow’s forage intakes is crucial to the profitability of my indoor herd,” explained Andrew.

“I aim to produce high DMD leafy grass prior to cutting and I’m looking for a finished silage dry matter content of at least 25% and no more than 35%. This is easier said than done but I have my own forage wagon and can keep a close eye on how the crop is wilting once its cut,” Andrew continued.

“Last year was my first year adding whole-crop to the ration and thankfully it has worked well. I grew 7.5 acres of winter wheat and cut it at the cheesy stage of grain fill. It was enough to put 4-5kg of whole-crop in the ration from November until the end of spring. It proved to be an ideal complement to the leafy silage in the diet promoting good rumen function and maximising forage intakes with its higher dry matter (40-45%). 

“As I ran out, I reluctantly had to increase the inclusion of chopped straw in the diet. I subsequently saw an increase in the cow’s ability to sort the ration. Cows are milking well but not quite as well as they were when they had their whole-crop.”

Andrew adds, “We used Biotal’s liquid additive whole-crop gold last year which kept the forage cool and palatable in the passageway. I'm using the product again on this year's spring wheat and should I ever make grass silage dryer than expected, I now know Morton's has the technology to prevent it from heating during feed-out. Ration presentation for dairy cows is continuing to be a real learning curve.”

Andrew sells his milk to Ballyrashane Creamery and is targeting improved milk quality going forward.  He aims to feed his whole-crop all year round and plans to introduce a third forage into the ration. This year he has 7 acres of maize growing under plastic.

Morton’s Antrim advisor Kevin Havekes adds, “Although Cloverhill is predominantly a grassland farm, by growing small acreages of alternative forages, Andrew is getting more milk out of his grass silage based diet and increasing his milk from forage. It also fits nicely in with the reseeding policy on the farm. 

“Customers who use Biotal additives such as whole-crop gold in conjunction with good clamp management, consistently see a reduction in forage spoilage and waste both during the fermentation process and at feed-out,” Kevin said.

The picture shows Morton's Antrim Advisor Kevin Havekes with Andrew Jamison and son Thomas in this year's spring wheat. 

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