Auditing the farm's hay-feeding system

13 Feb, 2018 12:00 PM
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A Waste-Not feeder ensures all cows receive an even share of feed.
Is the farmer getting the dining room and the lounge room mixed up?
A Waste-Not feeder ensures all cows receive an even share of feed.

Dairyfarmers should ask themselves the following seven questions when thinking about how to boost feed conversion efficiency in their herd.

1. Is wastage being minimised? Tossing hay or silage out on pasture is never a good idea. Waste is often visible. Check paddocks over time with Google Earth; it often looks like sign-writing with hay. The lower the quality of hay, the more the worms get. Leaf loss and pasture damage are even more insidious and costly overall. The voluntary head bale system of the Waste-Not Feeders captures more leaf and minimises waste.

2. Is feed being allocated it fairly? A long line of hay across the paddock gives an appearance of feeding the herd evenly, but check out who eats the last half of the line. Usually, it's not the heifers, shy cows or tailenders. They stand back and watch as the bossy cows steal their share, who often pig-out, eating more than is desired. Once the bullies leave, the shy group only has access to what little is left. The tail-enders miss out day after day. The Fair Go Dairy Feed Pad system solves this problem.

3. Is the total ration being boosted as well as balanced with the feed available? Trials conducted with Waste-Not Feeders consistently show major improvements in growth rate and production in addition to hay savings. The feeders are working on both sides of the feed conversion efficiency equation. When the ration is balanced overall, improvements in both pasture and grain utilisation follow.

4. Is the feedpad being used to maximise pasture growth and utilisation? Get rid of a sacrifice paddock and add it to the milker's rotation. Can the feedpad also feed springers and even the colostrum herd to gain another couple of days to the herd rotation? If the feedpad is only used as insurance against a wet day/week/season, the farm may be missing many opportunities. One farmer rang Waste-Not after a particularly wet winter, to say the farm had added an extra 1 tonne dry matter per hectare pasture utilised across winter. Another commented that it was like having an extra two pasture paddocks in the rotation.

5. Does the farm need a big feedpad? Having a feeding space for each cow has several downsides. It doubles or triples the price of the feeder; it rules out filling with whole bales and it puts the farmer back in the machinery business. It rules out loading each third day as the aim to get through that fill of hay in three days. The Fair Go batching system controls intake accurately as the bossy cows no longer bully the others out of their share. It is often quite difficult to integrate a large feed pad with the current effluent system, especially if cows are kept on the pad for a long period. Consider that having a separate space for each cow is rather like having a set of teat cups for each cow ù it could be done but farms don't.

6. Is the farmer getting the dining room and the lounge room mixed up? One is a feeding task; the other is a cow storage task. Perhaps a calving pad, which is just a lounge room for springers, becomes more practical if the feeding is moved onto a (reasonably close) dining room - often one side of the feedpad. The farmer might find that, once every cow is fed accurately, twice a day straight after milking and then put onto better pasture, then, perhaps the feedpad can sidestep the need to stand cows off as often.

7. Can a controlled amount of fibre be fed? Feeding each cow twice daily, straight after its grain ration and before it goes to pasture, keep its rumen from becoming too acidic. Waste-Not systems provide a more economical method of balancing sub-clinical acidosis than the expense and labour involved in total mixed ration or partial mixed ration systems.D

To find out more about the answers to these questions, speak to Terry Allan from Waste-Not Stockfeeders, phone 1800 808 685.

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