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Ifm forage guide_2014

  2. 2. To find out more about these products, contact your local DeLaval dealer or DeLaval Ltd on: t: +353 (0) 59 9146859 *T&Cs apply. Use biocidals safely. Always read the label and product information before use. Offer includes 30% off an MC31 cluster exchange. Check vacuum reserve is correct for the update and the new liners will fit the existing jetter cup. Also check the existing hook is suitable for the new cluster and that liners are properly aligned in shells. At participating dealers only. Of- fer on normal purchase price between 1st April - 31st May 2014 . 10% off Ultra and Super detergent. Offer on RX5000 San and RX5000 clean to be checked with dealer. 30% OFF* DeLaval MC31 Milking Cluster Exchange Promotion* Swap your clusters today to benefit from our 30% discount.* The World’s best milk filters DeLaval InService™ 10% OFF Ultra and Super Detergent* Ask your dealer for offer on RX5000 San & Clean DeLaval Exclusive Offer
  3. 3. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 3 4 Gearing up for expansion in 2015 6 Can grass ploidy and clover affect milk production? 8 NewTrioBale compressor film 9 Industrial uses for grass 12 Is there potential for Lucerne in Ireland? 14 Early season dosing strategy essential for healthy stock 16 Lameness in dairy cattle 18 New developments in fertiliser 20 Fertilising the grass silage crop 22 Optimising first cut silage crops 24 Silage harvesting 26 Choice of silage additive can improve fertility 28 Technology helps farmers improve performance 30 Dairy farming expands inTasmania 32 Pitfalls of silo construction 36 High birth weights and good milk supply essential for profitable lamb production 38 Profits from ewes on a small farm 39 Major launches revamped disc mower 40 Improve silage quality with molasses 42 Keenan InTouch:the new way to getting results 44 Making use of grass and forage:back to basics 45 Total confinement vs. pasture systems:what does the science say? Editor: Liam de Paor: Managing Editor: Sinéad Keane Production: Ciarán Brougham Design: Martin Whelan, Michael Ryan, Niall O’Brien Chief Executive: Rebecca Markey Publisher: David Markey Senior Advertising Manager: Anna Douglas Accounts: Tricia Murtagh Administration & Subscriptions: Sue Nolan Printing: Turner’s Printing Company Limited Publishers: IFP Media Forage & Nutrition Guide 2014, 31 Deansgrange Road, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Tel: +353 1 289 3305 • Fax: +353 1 289 6406 e-mail: • Copyright IFP Media 2014. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form without the express written permission of the publishers. 24 30 16 FORAGEAND NUTRITION GUIDE 2014 €5
  4. 4. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 4 Introduction GEARING UP FOR EXPANSION IN 2015 Liam DE PAOR As a result of good milk prices in Ireland over the past year, we have experienced a super levy problem. We may experience another in April 2015 if weather conditions and grass growth are normal. The abolition of milk quotas after 2015 is focusing minds on future expansion and new dairy equipment. However, bearing in mind the current level of soil fertility; the tight availability of winter fodder; and, record livestock numbers, the country is overstocked. Many dairy farmers have cows that should be culled for reasons such as poor fertility, lameness, high SCC counts, mastitis problems and low milk solids. Reducing cow numbers by 20 per cent and replacing them over the next three years, with better bred replacements, would solve a lot of problems. For a start, there would be more grass and silage available, therefore, improving milk yields and reducing the cost of purchased feed. Another issue that has arisen over the past year is the poor price of dairy calves. In Ireland, we are fortunate that increased exports have prevented a further price collapse. While the meat factories have been criticised for changing their policies on the purchase of bull beef, there is little demand anywhere for Jersey x bull calves. The size of the suckler herd has been impacted by the poor returns in beef farming. So, will we we see more dry stock farmers increasing their ewe flocks or indeed, getting back into sheep? The return on investment is far better and much quicker. For profitable lamb production, you need high birth weights and a good milk supply from the ewes. Both animals and heavy machinery caused a lot of damage on wet land in recent years. As a result, we need to reseed more permanent pastures with better varieties. This will improve forage quality and availability, while reducing the need for supplementary feeding with expensive concentrates. Nevertheless, even on the best farms and with normal weather conditions, there will always be times when grass is in short supply. So, do we need to look at alternatives such as brassicas, and could Lucerne have a role to play? Teagasc is carrying out some interesting research work at the moment, highlighted throughout the issue. Brian McCarthy has written an article, which looks at the affect of grass ploidy and clover on milk production, while Dr Padraig O’Kiely outlines the huge potential industrial market for grass. Animal health is an important issue as always. Chase production and you get more health problems; chase herd health and you are rewarded with higher milk yields and improved liveweight gain. Whether it is lameness, fertility issues or fluke and worm problems that you face on your farm, working with your vet is imperative to improving the situation. One sick animal takes as much time to look after as 40 healthy animals.
  5. 5. Premier Molasses Co. Ltd. Harbour Road, Foynes, Co. Limerick. Deepwater Berth, Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. t: 069-65311 f: 069-65537 e: Contact us or your local Co-op/merchant today: Nutri-Thrive is an energy dense, highly palatable liquid feed, supplying pure energy and valuable protein to the diet in a concentrated form. Containing a unique blend of ingredients, it is ideally suited to both dairy cow and beef cattle diets. Mineral Nutrition Products Ultra-Mag (2.5% Mg) – Grass Tetany Prevention. Hi-Phos – Targets Phosphorus deficiency. Premier Forte – Combines Magnesium with a full complement of key trace elements plus Biotin. All feeds suitable for feeding through the diet feeder or via parlour liquid feed systems. Nutri-Thrive The Ultimate High Energy Liquid Feed NEW ENERGYBOOSTER
  6. 6. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 6 CAN GRASS PLOIDYAND CLOVER AFFECT MILK PRODUCTION? Brian MCCARTHY, Teagasc Moorepark This experiment has been designed to investigate the effect of tetraploid anddiploid swards with, and without, clover inclusion on the productivity of springmilk production systems The utilisation of increased quantities of grazed grass at farm level will provide the basis of sustainable livestock systems. This will help to achieve the 50 per cent milk production increase targeted in Food Harvest 2020. This will be achieved by increasing stocking rates; improving grassland management; and, increasing grass production through the identification of grass cultivars more suitable for grazing dairy cows. Recent research has indicated that grazed tetraploid swards produced more milk than diploid swards. Clover has also shown beneficial effects in terms of nitrogen (N) fixation, increased milk production and increased grass dry matter (DM) production. However, these results need to be extrapolated into larger systems experiments. Therefore, there is a requirement to quantify the effect of grass ploidy and sward clover content on milk production at a system level over the entire grazing season. The experiment In 2012, a new research experiment by Teagasc Moorepark was set up on the farm at Clonakilty Agricultural College, which has a 84ha dairy unit and 29ha dry-stock (suckler beef and sheep) unit. Some 44ha of the dairy unit was assigned to the experiment, and the whole area was reseeded with new roadways, paddocks and water system installed. Four separate grazing treatments were sown on the experimental area: a tetraploid-only sward; a diploid- only sward; a tetraploid with clover sward; and, a diploid with clover sward. To create the treatments, four diploids (Tyrella, Aberchoice, Glenveagh and Drumbo) and four tetraploid cultivars (Aston Energy, Kintyre, Twymax and Dunluce) were sown as monocultures with, and without, clover in five different paddocks around the farm. This created a separate small farm space of 20 paddocks for each treatment. In the clover paddocks, a 50:50 mix of chieftain and crusader white clover was sown at a rate of 5kg/ha. Thirty cows were allocated to each treatment in mid- April, 2013. Treatments were stocked at 2.75 cows/ha and received 250kg of N fertiliser/ha. The four treatments (swards) were rotationally grazed from mid-April until mid-November. Each small farm space was examined once a week
  7. 7. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 7 to monitor average farm cover. When a surpluse was identified, it was removed in the form of baled silage. If a deficit occurred across all treatments, then all treatments were supplemented with concentrate. If a deficit occurred in an individual treatment, then cows were supplemented with forage produced from within that treatment. Milk yield was measured daily and milk composition was measured once a week. Pre- and post- grazing sward height was also measured. Data was analysed statistically to determine significant differences between treatments. Results The effect of grass ploidy and clover content are presented in Table 1. Grass ploidy had no effect on milk production as the cows grazing, both the tetraploid and diploid treatments, had similar daily and total milk and milk solids yield. Clover had a significant effect on milk production. As cows grazing the tetraploid + clover, and the diploid + clover treatments had greater daily and total milk and milk solids yield compared to cows grazing the tetraploid + diploid treatments. All treatments had a similar pre-grazing sward height (11cm), however, there was a difference in post-grazing sward height between treatments as the diploid and diploid + clover treatments had a higher post-grazing sward height (4.44cm), compared with the tetraploid and tetraploid + clover treatments (4.32cm). Both the tetraploid + clover, and diploid + clover treatments had greater annual grass DM production (15t DM/ha), compared with the tetraploid and diploid only treatments (14.3t DM/ha). Conclusion These results are from the first year of the 2013 experiment and they demonstrate that the inclusion of clover in swards can increase both milk production and annual grass DM production at higher stocking rates. In this case, grass ploidy did not affect milk production. However, these are preliminary results and more work is needed to evaluate the effect of both grass ploidy and sward clover content on milk production. The experiment will continue to run for a number of years to generate more information on the different treatments. Tetraploid Diploid Tetraploid + clover Diploid + clover Daily milk yield (kg/cow) 15.7 15.5 16.6 16.4 Daily milk solids (kg/cow) 1.30 1.25 1.34 1.35 Total milk yield (kg/cow) 3,521 3,468 3,719 3,682 Total milk solids (kg/cow) 292 280 301 303 Table 1: Daily and total milk and milk solids yield from cows grazing tetraploid; diploid; tetraploid + clover; and, diploid + clover swards from mid-April to mid-November 2013.
  8. 8. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 8 Pat CAHILL, Volac Ireland It is now possible to produce ensiled forage bales without using netwrap. TrioBaleCompressor Film is a new solution, which improves the preservation of energy and nutrient content in bales. Silage bales that are wrapped with TrioBaleCompressor Film have a higher density and more stable shape than that which was possible using netwrap. The new technology is based on a unique production method that can make pre-stretch films without any loss of performance. Using Trioplast’s unique new PreTech technology, Trioplast personnel perfected the solution over three years of work with McHale development team in Ballinrobe. The film is stretched tightly around the bales, resulting in bales that are more compact and have a higher density. The new mantlefilm produces compact and stable silage bales that are easier to handle and transport. Mantlefilm also offers several major benefits to the farmer during storage and feeding: Silage stretch film and mantlefilm can be removed in a single step. Manual handling can be minimised using an automatic opener; The waste films can be recycled in the same waste stream, saving a lot of effort; The problem of netwrap freezing onto bales in winter making it difficult to remove is eliminated; and, Mantlefilm fits tightly to the bale, so mould penetration is more limited than with netwrap following physical damage to the bale. NEWTRIOBALE COMPRESSOR FILM
  9. 9. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 9 INDUSTRIAL USES FOR GRASS Padraig O’KIELY, Teagasc Grange Grass growth combines energy from solar radiation with carbon dioxide from air, and water and minerals from soil, to produce a complex suite of chemicals that we usually process through ruminants to produce meat, milk and wool. However, the need to develop non-renewable fossil fuel-derived products has stimulated interest in grass as a natural chemical factory to provide renewable energy, chemicals and materials. Perspective Fresh grass can be used as an industrial biomass feedstock. For some applications, however, this provides challenges in maintaining an adequate supply of consistent quality herbage. In many cases, this can be solved by ensiling grass harvested at an appropriate growth stage, as this provides a relatively large stock of homogenous feedstock. The grass or silage can be used directly in processes such as anaerobic digestion, or they can be mechanically fractionated into solid and liquid fractions that can be further refined into a range of marketable products. The separated solid fraction is rich in fibre, particularly in cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, while the liquid fraction contains a mixture of protein components, organic acids, sugars, minerals and other substances. The solid and liquid fractions can be subjected to a series of downstream processes to recover valuable products and/or to manufacture new products. Anaerobic digestion Anaerobic digestion is a natural biochemical process in which feedstocks such as grass, silage, slurry and organic wastes are digested by microbes in large air-free tanks. At present, there are anaerobic digestion facilities operating commercially on over 6,000 farms in Germany. The two major outputs of this process are biogas and the residual digestate. The methane-rich biogas (biogas is about 55 per cent methane) can be directly combusted in large combined power and heat engines, which in turn drive electricity generators that feed into the national electricity grid. There is a considerable amount of heat generated by these engines, and the economic viability of the process is greatly enhanced if this heat can be captured and used productively. For example, it can be used to provide central heating to schools, hospitals, office blocks and apartment blocks, if the anaerobic digestion facility is located close to a village or town. Alternatively, the biogas can be upgraded to over 97 per cent pure methane by removing water vapour, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. This biomethane is virtually identical to natural gas and can be injected into the natural gas grid or compressed and used as a transport fuel for appropriately equipped vehicles. The digestate is the residue remaining after anaerobic digestion. It is normally spread in a similar manner to slurry and has a much weaker smell. The nitrogen in the digestate is usually more available for grass growth than the nitrogen in slurry, while the potassium and phosphorous are, at least, as available. As is the case
  10. 10. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 10 with slurry, the judicious use of digestate helps reduce inorganic fertiliser requirements on farms. Solid fraction The solid press cake fraction normally needs to have its water content evaporated. The remaining fibre-rich dry material has a range of potential uses: Thermal and acoustic insulation boards – these are currently being produced and marketed in Switzerland as an eco-friendly alternative to petro-chemical derived products. Particleboard – researchers in Turkey have developed a particleboard where grass fibre has replaced some of the wood chips and shavings that are mechanically pressed into sheet and bonded together with resin. Biocomposites – these are hybrid materials made of a polymer resin, reinforced by natural fibres obtained from hemp, wood or grass. They combine the strong mechanical performance of the fibres with the appearance, bonding and physical properties of the polymer. Horticulture – grass fibres can be modified and used as an alternative to peat in soil-less growth media for plants. Austrian researches are investigating the use of this product for rapid turf establishment. Horticulture – grass fibres can be moulded and pressed to form containers for marketing and transporting plants but that would then break down in the soil and permit the plants roots grow freely. Paper making – grass fibres have been used as an alternative to wood or recycled paper fibres for manufacturing writing paper. Construction – Irish research has shown that the fibrous solid fraction of grass silage can be used in concrete mixtures to prevent shrinkage cracking during setting and curing. It can achieve this as effectively as polypropylene fibres, which are a current industry standard. Combustion – although the high ash content of dry grass makes it unsuitable for burning, the higher fibre content and lower mineral content (much of the nitrogen, chlorine and potassium are removed with the liquid fraction) of the solid fraction of separated grass or silage make it suited to burning. However, this is a very low value-added use for this product. Nutritive value – both the digestible energy and
  11. 11. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 11 protein content of this solid fraction is much lower for cattle and sheep than the parent grass or silage, so it has little application in animal feeds. Other uses – a major potential exists to use new enzyme technologies to biologically or chemically fractionate the solid fibrous extract of grass or silage into platform chemicals that would then be converted into much higher value products. Liquid fraction At present, this fraction provides the more immediate opportunities to develop value-added products. For example: Lactic acid – the liquid fraction of well-preserved, extensively fermented silages can contain 20-40g lactic acid per kg. This is a potentially renewable source of what is an economically important platform chemical that has many uses in industry. Amino acids – the liquid fraction of well-preserved silages will contain a wide range of amino acids derived from protein breakdown. They have the potential to be used in the manufacture of drugs, cosmetics and food additives. Irish research The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine funded a collaborative research programme between: the Teagasc Animal Grassland Research and Innovation Centre at Grange; Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork; and, the Questor Centre at Queens University, Belfast. The focus of this research was to investigate the potential of different grass species and red clover as biomass feedstocks; their potential to provide fibre for industrial applications, and to evaluate these fibres in different applications; and, the optimisation of anaerobic digestion technology for grass and grass silage feedstocks.
  12. 12. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 12 ISTHERE POTENTIAL FOR LUCERNE IN IRELAND? Louise DINES, Senior Lecturer in Agronomy at Harper Adams University There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the Lucerne legume crop (within an estimated cropping area of 22,000ha), which fixes nitrogen (N), and is tolerant to drought, heat and some salinity, and offers a source of protein in regions where cropping choice is limited by one of these factors. As the cost of bought-in protein has risen and its benefits to ruminant digestion and productivity have been realised, however, there remains a perception that it is difficult to establish and grow. The crop is undeniably slow to establish and does require careful management, but, if basic agronomic guidelines are followed, there is nothing complex about it. The crop thrives on free-draining soils with a pH preferably above 6.5, as calcium is required for nodulation and effective N fixation so site selection is important. It can be grown as a monoculture or in mixtures with suitably slow-growing grass species, such as fescue, which won’t outcompete the Lucerne seedlings. Sowing with grass helps to reduce the weed burden but a similar benefit can be achieved by sowing with a cover crop such as spring barley at a reduced seed rate, which is then harvested as wholecrop silage. Importance of dormancy in Ireland The critical factor in choosing varieties suited to Irish conditions, is dormancy because this will determine the cold tolerance of the crop. The ’Flemish’ variety types with dormancy ratings of 2-6 are best suited to these conditions. Verticillium wilt-resistance is also a desirable characteristic as there is no fungicidal control of the disease. The seed is inoculated with Rhizobia meliloti to promote rapid root nodulation and the use of fumigated seed is also important to prevent eelworm problems. In terms of sowing date, it is most commonly drilled from late April. DairyCo research work at Harper Adams University and at other sites, suggests that late summer sowing is generally less successful due to weed infestation. For pure Lucerne stands, the aim is to achieve plant populations of 500-800 plants/ m2 , below which stems become too thick and woody, decreasing palatability and nutritional value. This usually equates to around 20-25kg/ha of seed. The seed is small (similar to white clover) and therefore should be sown no more than 1cm deep on rows 10-12cm apart. As with grass seeds, rolling before and after sowing will be beneficial to ensure good seed to soil contact and rapid establishment. Although Lucerne requires no N once established, it can be beneficial to apply 25kgN per ha at sowing. Phosphate and potash requirements are higher than for grass. An ADAS Index 2 is required for P
  13. 13. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 13 and K and it is suggested that recommendations for red clover are followed. Regular soil testing is also required to maintain pH at required levels. Good establishment is the key to weed control, as the range of approved pesticides is limited. A limited number of approved residual herbicides for broadleaved weed control can be applied to established crops over the winter and there is also authorisation for some graminicides to control grass weeds. Diquat can also be used during the dormant period. Unlike grass, Lucerne crops cannot be renovated by over-seeding in subsequent years as after 12 months, the plants exhibit autotoxicity, exuding chemicals, which inhibit the germination of new Lucerne seedlings. Lucerne can be harvested as hay and in New Zealand is successfully rotationally grazed but in wetter Irish conditions grazing is likely to damage the crowns and reduce persistence. Bloat, although manageable can also be an issue when the crop is grazed. While there is some production of dried, pelleted crop in Essex, the predominant use in Britain and Ireland is for silage. Pivotal crop-cutting times In the year of establishment, a light cut may be taken in mid-August but in subsequent years the crop will provide 4-5 cuts per year. Lucerne should be cut at around the bud/first flower stage as this provides the ideal balance between yield and protein levels. Two or three further cuts can then be taken at six-week intervals before it is left to grow into the autumn and replenish resources to the deep taproot. Commercial experience with the crop at Harper Adams University has shown that rubber roller-type conditioners are preferable to tine conditioners when cutting to avoid too much damage to the leaf. It is also important to maintain a cutting height of around 7cm to protect the crown from damage. The high protein and low sugar content can make it difficult to ensile, which is another reason for growing it with a companion grass which will increase soluble sugar levels. After cutting, the crop needs wilting to a minimum DM of at least 30 per cent for clamp silage and 40-50 per cent for baled silage. However, it is important not to leave it too long as the fragile leaves, which contain about 70 per cent of the protein, can easily shatter. It is also important to use an approved additive when ensiling Lucerne to encourage rapid fermentation. In summary, a well-established Lucerne crop can offer 4-8 years persistency of forage that is highly digestible and rich in minerals with protein levels of 18-22 per cent and yields of up to 12t/ha of DM per year with a reduced reliance on purchased fertiliser.
  14. 14. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 14 EARLY SEASON DOSING STRATEGY ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTHY STOCK Michael A. O’GRADY, Osmonds Animal Health When making plans for an effective dosing strategy for 2014 you should consider: How and when your winter dosing programme was carried out (products used, timings, and parasitic levels). How your animals are looking – are they licking or scratching for lice, scouring or showing symptoms of ill-thrift, as a sign of worm or fluke infestations? It may be necessary to carry out faecal analysis to check the worm or fluke burden. There may be an overhang of worms, lice, rumen or liver fluke in your stock depending on the product you used last and the intervals between doses at housing. Many insecticides do not kill louse eggs, so a second treatment may have been carried out approximately four to five weeks (product depending) after the initial treatment at housing. Gut/lungworms can survive until spring either as an over- wintered larva on pasture or within infected animals. If autumn dosing was not carried out effectively, livestock can harbour thousands of these Type II Oestertagia larvae. All cattle and dairy cows not fluke dosed (within eight weeks of housing) should be dosed prior to turnout, as high levels of fluke can depress milk yield and live weight gain by up to 10-20 per cent. The exceptionally wet year delayed the turnout of stock. Increased numbers of young stock can lead to a huge build-up of infectious agents in calving sheds. Vigilance is essential during the critical three-week period around calving to minimise any infections to the cow or her calf. Importance of hygiene Maintain clean, dry, draught-free calving pens with adequate bedding to minimise a build-up of infection. Clean and power wash calving pens between calvings where possible and use lime or disinfectant to limit infection. Continue dipping navals in strong iodine immediately after birth and for a couple of days, if necessary, to help prevent any further infection. These simple management practices can be overlooked when busy and the calf is at its highest risk of infections. The calf should receive 3-4L of its mother’s colostrum in the first 2-4 hours after calving. This will minimise the risk of scour and other infections. Many cases of scour initially arise due to irregular feeding, overfeeding or some other upset in the feeding routine. These nutritional scours, unless corrected, may become infections (e.g. viruses, bacteria or cryptosporidia can be picked up from the environment). When calves are dehydrated, electrolytes in sufficient quantity must be given. A 50kg calf, which has lost 10 per cent of its body weight will require 5L of replacement fluid. A wet and mild winter Last winter provided ideal conditions for egg, snail and metacercariae survival and, as a result, there will be a higher level of infection at grass when animals are turned out. Younger stock, especially calves, are at greatest risk. Gastro intestinal (GIT) worms and lungworms can result in a severe loss of body condition (up to 10 per cent of bodyweight in growing cattle) so get on top of parasite problems as early as possible. Losses in a severe outbreak of parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) in young cattle could reach €150 per head. Similar losses can be expected with a severe outbreak
  15. 15. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 15 of lungworm. Secondary bacterial pneumonia can follow lung damage, necessitating antibiotic therapy.  The effect of worms on cows is often unnoticed, leading to poor milk production, reduced fertility and more feed required to maintain condition. The milk-yield response alone to anthelmintic treatment in recent studies was observed to be around 1kg/cow per day. Lungworm disease can also occur in adult cattle where there has been little exposure of younger animals to the parasite and where worm control has been ineffective. In dairy herds, infection can reduce milk yields significantly, with possible deaths. Lost milk production could reach €2 to €4 per head per day, with recovery taking 10-20 days after treatment. Cattle of all ages can become infected with liver fluke and this can result in reduced weight gains of between 0.5-1.6kg per week. Studies have shown that in Belgian Blue double-muscled growing and fattening cattle this can be as high as 2.15kg per week. Even with moderate infections, milk yields can fall by 10-15 per cent. Milk quality is also affected with a reduced butterfat. Infections can result in an extra 0.5 services per conception and the calving interval can increase by up to 20 days. Furthermore, liver fluke could predispose cows to acetonaemia (‘fatty liver’) and hypocalcaemia (milk fever). Dosing Strategies for 2014 Worming For all stock, if not dosed with a product that treats inhibited larvae of Type II Ostertagia, give them such a dose now. For dairy and other livestock, you can dose with a quality product like Flexiben SC (60 hours milk withdrawal). For all non-dairy stock, you can dose with products such as Lineout or Fortemec Pour-on. For dairy cows, you may apply products such as Eprinex with zero milk withdrawal. These timely treatments will greatly reduce the number of infected larvae on pasture and help minimise possible setbacks that parasites can cause. Liver fluke For all cattle and dairy cows, if not dosed since housing or within eight weeks of housing with a flukacide and have had no dose since, we would recommend that they get a further dose to eliminate any fluke ingested prior to housing. Abattoirs reported high levels of liver fluke in the livers of adult stock last autumn. For dairy cows, we recommend that you use quality products such as Flexiben SC (with 60 hours milk withdrawal) or Zanil (with 72 hours milk withdrawal). For all other livestock, dose with an approved product such as Flexiben SC, Zanil, and Fasifree, Orafluke or injectable solutions Flukiver or Trodax/Mectaject Plus or Pharmazan C as a dose. Additional management practices Boluses are an effective method of long-acting, trace element control and can help complement grass. Grass supplies as little as 50 per cent of the animals trace elements (lush spring grass goes through the animals digestive system very quickly and thus there isn’t enough time to absorb the trace elements). Conduct regular weighing of stock to assess if your parasite control programmes is working and your animals are achieving the target live weight gain.
  16. 16. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 16 LAMENESS IN DAIRY CATTLE David COLBOURNE, Teagasc, Ballyhaise By this time of the year, cows have been housed for several months and any deficiencies in the shed are coming through in the cow’s feet. Around calving, the cow’s diet is changing from silage to high levels of meal feeding. Some cows are out along wet roads and farmers are seeing problems on these surfaces. Lame animals are very likely to get other problems such as mastitis, infertility, low yields and poor physical condition. Among the most common causes of lameness are rough roadways, yards or passages, bad cubicles forcing cows to stand too long, over feeding with meal (especially abruptly after calving), overcrowding or poorly ventilated housing, dirty passageways, rough or stressful treatment etc. These problems should be dealt with promptly. Research findings show that cows housed in good space sharing cubicles with mats or soft bedding, lay down for up to 10 hours in every 24, while those in small unbedded cubicles lay down for only half this time and have four times more lameness. These latter cows also have much higher incidences of infertility and mastitis. There should be at least one cubicle for every cow in the shed, and preferably 1.1 cubicles per cow; this has been shown to significantly reduce lameness, especially among the first- calvers and cows that are already struggling in the shed. Paring and foot bathing Cows’ hooves should be routinely pared, preferably by qualified hoof parers such as in the Farm Relief Service. Cows that are near calving should not go into the crate because they can get distressed during paring. Other cows would benefit from getting their feet in shape for the year ahead. A lot of problems occur around calving time, such as long toes, sole ulcers, white line and double soles. Watching a cow walk, her back should be straight and level as she proceeds; cows humping their back as they walk are showing symptoms of lameness even before they start to limp. Foot bathing with formalin or copper sulphate (bluestone) is helpful. However, bathing lame cows only exacerbates the pain for the cow, hardening the tissues around the injury so it becomes harder for her to walk. Foot bathing is especially useful if the cows feet are in wet conditions, for instance in dirty sheds, often associated with bad ventilation, or with wet fields or roadways. In recent years, lameness caused, by a virus known as Mortellaro, has become common. This needs rapid attention if it is to be kept out of the herd. It is a nasty disease because it spreads quickly, especially in indoor herds, and it causes sudden severe lameness, yet farmers are slow to recognise it in their cows. Treatment with antibiotic-based sprays or footbaths are needed to treat this disease. Talk to your hoof parer, vet or Teagasc. Farmers need to pay special attention to the following: One cubicle for each cow is desirable to allow animals ——Footbathing outside the milking parlour. ——Lots of work needed on this hoof.
  17. 17. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 17 to lie down as much as they wish. Cubicles should be of adequate size for the animals housed. Cubicles should be at least 2.4m (8ft) long if facing wall and 2.1m (7ft) if head-to-head. These dimensions are from the Department of Agriculture, Fishing and the Marine farm building specifications and they are good measurements. The width should be 1.15m (3ft 9in) wide if modern space-sharing design and more with the old Newton-Rigg type. For very large cows, an extra 6in should be added to the length with an adjustable shoulder rail to avoid soiling cubicles. Soft bedding or mats encourage cows to lie down and prevents leg injuries. Straw is ideal but does not suit some slurry systems. Cubicle passages should be scraped daily and beds should be cleaned off and dusted with lime, twice daily. Rubber mats on cubicles are good; rubber mats on slats in cubicle sheds are bad, because they actually increase lameness, research has shown. Presumably cows spend more time on the slats and less in the cubicles when the slats have mats, putting more pressure on the feet. If possible, heifers should be trained to lie in cubicles before entering the main herd, as first calved heifers are a very vulnerable to lameness. If these animals (or any others) are noticed standing too much they should receive special attention or even be removed to separate housing. Passageways, yards and roadways should be kept well surfaced to avoid hoof damage and animals should be treated gently. Sharp bends and slippery surfaces should be avoided. Adequate feed space is also important. Cows should have plenty of space to move around in the shed and good access to the cubicles and the feed barriers, preferably several access points rather than one long narrow passage. Cubicle houses should be well ventilated, without being draughty. Introducing concentrates gradually after calving and feeding a suitable diet also play a huge role in preventing lameness. Concentrates high in starch, particularly wheat and barley, increase the risk of lameness; feed little and often (diet wagon or three times a day if at high levels) and take even more care to build up slowly. Regular foot care carried out by the Farm Relief Service or equivalent will also be a great help in minimising lameness. Cows that will not lie in cubicles should be removed to a straw-bedded house. ——White line problems in a young dairy animal, this heifer has been limping for a while. ——Mortellaro along the hairline; a weeping sore with long hair and a bad smell, this cow would be very lame.
  18. 18. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 18 NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN FERTILISER Mike SHIELDS, General Manager, Advanced Fertilizers Ltd. After years of decline, fertiliser usage in Ireland is rising and new, efficient nitrogen (N) products have arrived in Ireland to capture post-quota growth opportunities. Usage of all fertilisers rose in 2013 compared with the previous year. Fertiliser sales are now 12 per cent above 2007 levels and looked to have turned the corner. Agronomists and advisers put this down to greater awareness of soil nutrient levels and more focus on farming for production rather than for compliance with, for example, REPS schemes. There is still a long way to go as Teagasc reported that only nine per cent of soil samples are in Index 3-4 for phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) and with pH above 6.2. It is expected that usage of fertilisers will continue to grow as farmers gear up for increased output in the post-quota era. The most recent developments have been the widespread adoption of soil P and K indices and the focus on managing soil nutrient status. Teagasc and the Fertilizer Association of Ireland launched the nutrient management wheel in 2013 and followed this up with the online version in 2014. Both of these make it much easier than ever before for farmers to plan their fertiliser programmes, taking into account amounts of nutrients being supplied by slurry and concentrate feeding. New developments in chemical fertilisers occurred this year with the introduction of Koch Advanced Nitrogen to the Irish market by Advanced Fertilizers Ltd. Before this, Irish farmers had to choose between urea and calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) for straight N. While being cheaper, a proportion of urea can be lost by volatilisation into ammonia gas and often unpredictably. CAN is more reliable, but is more expensive and only contains 27 per cent N so spreading time and haulage reduce its attractiveness. Koch Advanced Nitrogen provides the high and dependable performance of CAN plus advantages in faster application, easier handling and more cost- effectiveness that CAN cannot provide. Koch Advanced Nitrogen contains Agrotain N nitrogen stabiliser to remove volatilisation concerns from this urea-based fertiliser. It can be spread anytime during the crop season without fear of volatilisation losses, it is 46 per cent N compared to only 27 per cent in CAN and works out to higher profit potential per ha than CAN. It is suitable for both grassland and tillage with the option of added sulphur. Performance comparison of N fertiliser
  19. 19. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 19 types is the focus of research at both Johnstown Castle and Hillsborough. The researchers are seeking a high- performance, low-emission N fertiliser to simultaneously enable increased economic output and reduced environmental impact. For example, Food Harvest 2020 calls for a 50 per cent increase in dairy output from the agricultural sector. But, of Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 30 per cent comes from agriculture, the highest proportion in Europe and we have a target of double-digit reductions to meet EU environmental mandates. Research work from Hillsborough (DEFRA, 2006) suggests that Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is the highest emitter of nitrous oxide gas (a potent GHG) among nitrogen fertilisers. Subsequent trial work indicates that a product such as Koch Advanced Nitrogen gives similar performance to CAN while having substantially lower greenhouse gas emission. The research work continues and will be watched carefully by Irish farmers who face the dual pressures of output increase and emission reduction. The challenge is for new N products to achieve both.
  20. 20. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 20 FERTILISINGTHE GRASS SILAGE CROP Mark Plunkett, Stan Lalor David Wall, Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Wexford Grass silage has a large nutrient demand and adequate nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) is essential for maximising grass yield and producing sufficient winter feed. Soil pH - Maintain soil pH at 6.3 to 6.5 for optimum grass production. Leave a minimum of three months between lime applications and closing for grass silage. Maintaining an optimum soil pH through regular lime application will help to maximise the availability of N, P and K in the soil. Nitrogen (N) is the key driver of yield but too much or too little N will have a large impact on grass dry matter (DM) production and silage quality. Grass swards with high levels of perennial rye grass will use N more efficiently than older swards. Recently reseeded swards (0-3 years) will have 25 per cent higher N demand, especially when reseeded after a tillage rotation. A crop of grass silage (5t/ha of DM) will require 125kg N/ha (100 units/ac). A crop of grass silage will take up, on average, 2.5kg/ha/day of N (2units/day), therefore, apply N at least 50 days before cutting to ensure full N utilisation. P and K are essential to maximise grass yields therefore adequate supply of these nutrients in the soil is critical. Assess the most recent (3 to 5 years) soil test reports to determine the P and K requirements (in organic manure and fertiliser) for silage fields. A crop of grass silage will remove approx. 4kg P and 25kg K /tonne of grass DM. Organic manures are an effective source of N, P and K and can provide a large proportion of crop P and K requirements at relatively low cost. Table 1 shows the available N, P and K content for a range of organic manures. Cattle slurry is the most common manure applied to silage fields and can vary in nutrient content depending on its DM. Diluting cattle slurry with water is beneficial for ease of agitation and can help to improve the N availability in the slurry, however, it will also dilute the P and K content of the slurry. Table 1 shows the N, P and K values for a normal and dilute cattle slurries at different DM per cent. It is important to take account of DM content to reduce the risk of under fertilising crops. The slurry hydrometer can be used to assess the DM per cent of slurry helping you to predict the nutrient content more accurately. For example 3,000 gallons of good quality cattle slurry (7 per cent DM) will supply sufficient P and K levels to grow a crop of grass silage. Table 2 shows the recommended rates of N, P and K at different soil P K indexes (1 to 4) required for 5t/ha grass DM (10t fresh grass/ac). Timing of N,P and K application Apply crop N, P and K requirements when closing fields in late March/early April. Where slurry is applied, delay the top-up fertiliser, applications for one week. In wetter soil conditions fertiliser N can be split 50:50 for example 50 per cent in late March / early April and the remainder two weeks later to reduce the risk of N losses. Table 1: Available N, P and K values for a range of organic manures (units/1,000 gallons) Manure type N P K Cattle slurry (7 per cent DM) 6 5 30 Dilute Cattle Slurry (3.5 per cent DM) 5 3 15 Pig slurry 19 7 20 units/tonne FYM 3 2.4 12 SMC 3 3 16 Cattle slurry 8 per cent DM; Pig slurry 4 per cent DM
  21. 21. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 21 Building Soil P and K in silage fields Apply additional P and K (soil build-up rates) to index 1 and 2 soils after first-cut silage in late summer. For example, 16 per cent P or 50 per cent K or 0-7-30 are very suitable fertilisers for building soil P and K levels to the target index 3 level over a number of years. Sulphurs deficiency is most on light sandy / free draining soils with low soil organic matter. Grass silage crops have a requirement of 20kg S/ha per cut. The application of S to soils where it is required will improve grass DM yields and quality as it helps to maintain an optimum N:S ratio and N to be used more efficiency. Apply S with main N split as N +S (e.g. CAN +S / Urea +S). Table 3: Second and subsequent cuts grass silage N, P and K requirements. Soil Index N kg/ha (units/ac) P kg/ha (units/ac)* K kg/ha (units/ac) 1 100 (80) 30 (24) 70 (56) 2 100 (80) 20 (16) 50 (40) 3 100 (80) 10 (8) 35 (28) 4 100 (80) 0 0 *Where P and K build has been already applied to the previous crop of grass silage therefore apply P and K offtake based on yields for second-cut silage crops as shown for Index 3 advice. Table 2: First-cut Grass Silage N, P and K requirements (5t/ha DM) and suggested fertiliser programmes. Soil Index N kg/ha (units/ac) P kg/ha (units/ac) K kg/ha (units/ac) Fertiliser options 3 No slurry Cattle slurry 3,000gal/ac 11 125 (100) 40 (32) 175 (140) 3.5 bags/ac 0-7-30 4 bags/ac CAN 3.5 bags/ac 24-2.5-10 21 125 (100) 30 (24) 155 (120) 3 bags/ac 0-7-30 4 bags/ac CAN 3 bags/ac 27-2.5-5.0 3 125 (100) 20 (16) 125 (100) 5 bags/ac 15-3-20 1 bags/ac CAN 3 bags/ac CAN 42 125 (100) 0 0 4 bags/ac CAN 4 bags/ac CAN 1 Index one and two soils apply P and K balance advice to build soil P and K levels to after grass for example as 24-2.5-10 / 0-7-30. 2 Index four soils omit P for two/three years and retest, Index 4 K omit for one year and revert to index 3 advice thereafter until next soil test. 3 Urea can replace CAN as main N source. Light rain (up to 10 mm) before or after application will reduce N losses from urea.
  22. 22. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 22 OPTIMISING FIRST CUT SILAGE CROPS Derek NELSON, Global Forage Product Manager, Volac As most farmers are turning their thoughts to the new season ahead it is a good time to plan for the grass silage to be produced this year. The nutritional quality of your silage is based on that of the starting crop, not just the plant itself but also whatever else might be on it. So, if you are applying slurry, time is of the essence. With increasing grass growth, there is higher chance of leaf contamination, so using a method that applies slurry to the soil rather than onto the plant helps minimise risk. Remember that slurry contains some nasty bacteria that will increase the risk of a poor fermentation if they get into the clamp. If applied to the leaves and followed by dry weather, the slurry will not be diluted, and the leaves may still be contaminated. Application of bagged fertiliser should take account of any soil and slurry nutrients already present. It is particularly important not to over-apply nitrogen (N) as an excess can lead to high nitrates at ensiling, increasing the risk of a poor fermentation. Under normal conditions it is assumed N will be taken up at a rate of 2.5kg/ha/day, but extremes of weather will reduce this significantly. The worst situation is when uptake has been restricted and rain comes just before silaging as N will be taken up rapidly, leading to a build up of nitrate in the plant as it cannot convert it into protein fast enough. As sugars are also used in protein formation, there will be less available for fermentation and the higher protein concentration will increase the buffering capacity of the grass, making it even more difficult to ensile. Ensiling high nitrate grass can also lead to the formation of poisonous silo gas in the early stages of ensiling. If high nitrates are suspected, get the grass analysed. If the nitrate-N is much above 0.1 per cent DM wait a day or two. Wilting and/or the use of a silage additive will help minimise the risk of a poor fermentation from either slurry contamination or high nitrates. Harvesting Empty silage clamps, due to a longer winter feeding period, tend to push farmers towards bulk rather than quality. Not only will quality fall dramatically, but the grass tends to ‘lodge’ causing dramatic reduction in digestibility. You would be better silaging at the intended time, plan for a decent second cut and consider making up the shortfall with an alternative crop, like wholecrop cereals. Aim to wilt to about 30 per cent DM within 24 hours as usual but remember that if excellent conditions occur it can become over-dry within this period so adjust wilting period to target this recommended DM. If too dry, you will end up with higher field losses and silage will be more difficult to compact in the clamp, increasing the risk of aerobic spoilage at feedout. If this occurs, chopping shorter, to around 1.5- 2cm, will help with compaction. It also might be worth direct cutting the last field to provide some extra weight and a better seal on top. Grass starts to deteriorate as soon as it is cut so the faster it wilts the better. A mower-conditioner can
  23. 23. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 23 increase the rate of moisture loss by up to 40 per cent as it crushes the stems and damages the waxy protective outer layer (cuticle). But don’t use a conditioner in wet conditions as rain can be absorbed into the plant via these damaged areas. Most of the initial water loss is from the leaves via the stomata, holes on the under surface which only remain open for up to two hours after cutting. Drying is fastest if you expose the maximum surface area of the plants to the sun and wind, so spread it wide across the field and ted it. When swathing, make sure the rake is set properly to avoid picking up soil, another source of silage spoilage microorganisms. Ensiling Silage fermentation is an anaerobic process, which means it takes place in the absence of air and a lot of clamp management is aimed at keeping air out. This allows fermentation to get going faster, reducing fermentation losses and reducing undesirable microbial activity. It also decreases the risk of aerobic spoilage at feedout as the yeasts responsible for initiating aerobic spoilage can increase at this stage, giving them a head start at opening. It doesn’t matter whether the crop going in is wet or dry, the same rules apply. Line the clamp walls with sheeting, leaving plenty of excess for overlapping on top, then get the grass in quickly, filling the clamp in thin layers (max. 15cm) with plenty of compaction. Unless you have very heavy machinery, it is best to use single tyres as that maximises the pressure per unit area. If you are ensiling a wet crop, don’t over- roll or it will end up mushy and the cows won’t like it. It is essential you have enough machinery on the clamp to keep up with the loads coming in. Once it is all in, give it a final roll then seal it well with plenty of weight on top. Using one of the new ‘cling film’ type sheets as the inner layer is particularly effective. Additives Additives should only ever be considered as an aid to making silage; they will not make up for poor quality crops or poor clamp management. Used properly they can bring about cost-effective benefits in terms of improved fermentation, increased animal performance and reduced dry matter losses. Choose one designed to tackle the issue you are facing, be it fermentation and/or aerobic spoilage but remember it is animal performance that ultimately brings the biggest payback. Look for a product that has independent research and a proven track record showing benefits in milk, meat production and reducing fermentation losses.
  24. 24. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 24 SILAGE HARVESTING Liam de PAOR Based in Kilconnell, East Galway, Beckett Agri is one of Ireland’s largest silage contractors. Customers can choose between self-propelled silage harvesters, the forage wagon system or get their grass baled and wrapped. Their 2013 silage harvesting operations can be viewed online and they also have a prominent social media presence on Facebook. Operation developments This family business was founded by William Beckett, who continues to play an active role and also keeps a suckler herd of pedigree Charolais cattle on his own farm. At present, his son Martin is managing operations and the area they cover extends from Moycullen in west Galway to south Roscommon. They can operate three separate silage outfits at any one time with a fleet of 17 tractors available. These include 12 John Deere, two Claas, two Fendt and a Merlo. The silage machinery includes four Strautmann wagons, one Claas harvester, numerous mowers, one Volvo and two Komatsu loaders, along with two McHale Fusion 3 Plus integrated baler wrappers. According to Martin their silage harvesting business is roughly 20 per cent baled silage, 40 per cent done with a forage wagon and the rest with the self-propelled harvester. As regards baled silage, Beckett Agri’s customers include cattle, sheep and dairy farmers. However, unlike many other areas where only four wraps are used, their customers ask for six wraps to be applied. This is a big advantage particularly with higher dry matter (DM) silage as it minimises mould problems and improves forage quality. With higher DM silage the number of bales are greatly reduced, so applying two extra wraps does not actually cost any more per tonne of silage. However, technology continues to improve and netwrap, which took over from baler twine, is set to be replaced with film. This will not only improve forage quality but will further reduce the cost of making baled silage. According to Sean O’Connor, General Manager ——Pictured at a recent technical briefing for Silotite distributors on the farm of Agri contactorsWilliam and Martin Beckett, Co. Galway: William Beckett, Chloe Layton and Kate Collett from Minister Films; and Sean O’Connor, General Manager Silotite Ireland.
  25. 25. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 25 at Silotite (Ireland), the new wrapping Film Film (FF) System has been in development for over six years. “We have worked closely with the baler manufacturers to refine the Baletite product for the newly launched Fusion 3 Plus. Our technical personnel have gone as far afield as New Zealand to carry out development work in addition to working with farmers in Europe, UK and Ireland. John Joe Cummins from McHales says they have been working on the FF System for four years. Around 100 of the new McHale Fusion 3 Plus machinery will be working around Ireland for 2014. Last season, 20 of their machines wrapped over 100,000 bales in Galway and Mayo with this new system. FF System explained The FF System is a new, dual film technology that conserves superior quality silage through greater bale density and an enhanced oxygen barrier. This innovative baling and wrapping practice involves the use of Baletite, a wide polythene film, alongside the next generation of Silotite balewrap. The Baletite film replaces the traditional netwrap used to bind crops into a bale. In addition to improved silage quality, the FF System minimises forage waste and the two films used do not have to be segregated for recycling as is the case with netwrap, thereby saving time and money. Agri-contractors agree that there has been a huge improvement in silage quality. Bales are tighter and therefore smaller, more airtight and better protected for handling and storage. Martin Beckett says that they have wrapped over 10,000 bales using the FF System over the last two years. According to Sean, using Baletite, one can get an extra two bales wrapped from a roll of Silotite balewrap so that is a significant cost saving. In addition there is the improved feed quality because the bale is protected by more film and one is unlikely to see any mouldy silage. These finding have also been confirmed by independent trials. For example, the ILVO (Instituut voor Landbouw – en Visserljonderzoek [Institute for Research in Agriculture in Belgium]) found that the FF bales were on average 2cm smaller in circumference than traditional netwrapped bales in addition to being 10 per cent denser. Bill Beckett has also noticed the improved silage quality from the bales wrapped using the FF System and the better liveweight gain from his own cattle. Milk producers in Galway and Mayo have also noticed the improved forage quality and improved performance from their herds. Senan Glynn is a milk supplier to Aurivo Coop and farms near Dunmore in North Galway. He has a herd of 130 pedigree Holstein cows and used to make 100ac of pit silage and some bales from surplus grass. However, two years ago, Sean changed over completely to baled silage and makes around 2,000 bales each year. He finds the preservation and quality much better with the FF System and more cost-effective than pit silage. With clamp silage he was having problems with high DM silage and was paying by the acre for harvesting. Now, he has only about eight-high DM bales per acre so it’s less expensive to make and to transport. Sean uses a Keenan mixer wagon to feed the silage to his cows and this is loaded with a McHale bale splitter which speeds up operations. “My contractor is Tommy Costello who has had a McHale Fusion 3 Plus since 2011 and has wrapped 30,000 bales with this system. Not too far away in Kilmaine, Co. Mayo another dairy farmer is making around 2,000 bales of silage each year using the FF System, so I would highly recommend using it,” Sean says.
  26. 26. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 26 CHOICE OF SILAGEADDITIVE CAN IMPROVE FERTILITY Dr Dave Davies, Silage Solutions Silage inoculants are usually seen as a way to increase milk from forage. Following a statistical study, Genus ABS Powerstart was found to also have an impact on fertility. GenusABS Powerstart The 2012 study showed that farmers, who treated their silage with Genus ABS Powerstart, on average, achieved a 10-day reduction in the calving to conception interval. Now, an independent review has been published that explains the effects a silage inoculant can have on cows getting back in calf. When the trial, involving over 100 herds and 25,000 cows, showed the link between silage inoculant and fertility the immediate question was why? How can silage production have such an effect on reproduction? The answer lies in the way the silage is fermented and how the forage is utilised in the rumen. Powerstart contains just one strain of bacteria, a unique strain of the homofermentative bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum, which was selected after extensive independent evaluation of lactic acid bacteria carried out at Aberystwyth by IGER (Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) in the mid-1990s. Unlike most strains of Lactobacillus, L. plantarum Aber F1 is a fructan degrading strain, which means it is able to make better use of all the sugars available in grass, which results in a more rapid fermentation, with two significant consequences for the nutritional value of the silage. The first is that, by making use of all the sugars in grass, less of the available sugar is used during the fermentation, which means that there is more sugar in the resultant silage, which is then available to the cow. The second is that accelerating the rate of fermentation more effectively preserves the protein in the grass, with a higher proportion of true protein and fewer free amino acids, something that will not show up on a silage analysis. The impact of faster fermentation and better nutrient retention is really important when the silage is digested in the rumen. He explains that the high proportion of true protein in Powerstart-treated silage, combined
  27. 27. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 27 with the higher sugar levels, means the rumen digests the forage more efficiently. A typical silage with more free amino acids and ammonia combined with less available sugar, can result in an imbalance in the rumen fermentation, with too much nitrogen released and a shortage of rumen available energy. The consequence is a large proportion of protein is lost as rumen ammonia, which is excreted as urea into the blood and milk. In silage fermented with L plantarum Aber F1, the improved balance of sugars and true protein results in more effective rumen fermentation, less surplus ammonia and, consequently, lower urea levels. Lower urea levels are the key to why fertility improves with Powerstart-treated silage. If the rumen is producing a lot of ammonia it has to be removed, which uses up energy. Converting ammonia into urea wastes energy, which reduces the energy available for milk production. If less energy is available from the diet, the consequence in early lactation is that cows will be in extended negative energy balance and will lose more condition over a longer period of time, which is well understood to have a negative effect on fertility. Higher blood urea levels reduce fertility Higher blood urea levels are also a contributor to low fertility in dairy cows. His review of the literature drew on extensive research from leading dairy countries around the world. High blood urea reduces fertility in three ways. Firstly, cows with high urea levels have longer intervals between heat periods, which mean you have fewer opportunities to breed cows. Secondly, high urea and ammonia levels have been shown to hamper the development of eggs in the ovary, leading to poorer quality eggs, which reduces the chance of fertilisation. Finally, high blood urea levels alter the environment in the uterus and reduce progesterone levels, which means cows are less able to maintain a pregnancy. By more closely providing the rumen with what it needs, in the correct balance to allow an effective fermentation, silage fermented using L. plantarum Aber F1 has a direct benefit in reducing the reproductive problems associated with high blood urea. It also drastically reduces the energy required to deal with waste urea, leaving more energy for the cow, for production and to reduce negative energy balance.
  28. 28. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 28 TECHNOLOGY HELPS FARMERS IMPROVE PERFORMANCE Eilish Spillane, Dairymaster ‘Nature enhanced’ is not an original phrase, it does, however, explain the Dairymaster approach to herd and animal health. In fact, it sums up much of the company’s approach to every aspect of their integration of technology and dairying. In recent scientific trials, the Dairymaster cluster yielded up to 5 per cent more than another commercially available cluster. Dairymaster maximises milk output through the unique combination of the claw, liner and pulsation system. This system milks each cow up to one minute faster and is designed similar to a calf suckling its mother. Ger Waters runs a 250ac dairy farm near Ballytore, in Co Kildare. He milks 175 cows in his 20-unit, fully-automated parlour. With an SCC of 70,000 and TBC between 5,000- 6,000, since installing a Dairymaster parlour, he has been able get his cell count under control. Ray Murphy runs a farms in Kilbride, Co. Wicklow. “Since changing to the Dairymaster parlour and pulsation system, I have seen a dramatic decline in mastitis. My SCC has come down from an average of 300,000 to 90,000. Milk quality has never been better with an average TBC gone from 12,000 to 6,000. The pulsation system of the new parlour has helped issues on farm.” Accurate heat detection is central to achieving optimal calving intervals, optimal yields, good herd reproductive performance and reducing the cost of
  29. 29. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 29 replacements. Some of the most advanced technology used in Dairymaster’s equipment is contained in their Moo Monitor. This is fitted on the neck of the cow and provides real-time information about the health and fertility status of each cow. The majority of heats occur between 8pm and 6am, when most farmers are asleep. The Moo Monitor gathers data on a 24-hour basis and downloads this to a base station at intervals set by the operator. The farmer can view the information on an hourly basis, allowing insemination of the cows at the optimum time. The Moo Monitor intelligent software fully integrates with the farm messenger, which can alert the farmer via a text message with a list of cows in heat so that, at milking time, the parlour sound system will alert the operator. The auto-drafting system can be set up to draft active cows to a separate holding pen once milking has been completed. Dairymaster treats every cow within a herd as an individual, dealing with their specific needs. The organisation pioneered the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip ear tags in dairy equipment in 1993. This allowed customers to increase efficiency and improve security on farm. It eliminates manual entry of data while improving data quality, reliability and timeliness, all of which leads to improved decision making on farm. The use of RFID also offers better traceability and fraud prevention. Using this technology, Dairymaster can identify each cow to the piece of equipment they are interacting with. This is particularly important in the dry cow period, as during this time, the dietary needs of the cow changes. The Smart Feeder is a standalone system designed to accurately dispense supplements just prior to calving. It allows the farmer to easily feed cows on an individual basis based on body condition score, stage of production and health status. Therefore, the cows are being correctly nourished so they return to healthy milking as soon as nature will allow. Herd health can often be more about prevention than cure, so the Dairymaster Feed Rite in parlour feeders helps maintain cows at the best possible condition, increase milk yields and cater for their individual nutrition requirements. As herds are getting larger, the Dairymaster Cluster cleanse is an immense aid for improving milking hygiene and is of great assistance against the spread of contagious mastitis during milking, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Each cluster is rinsed after each cow is milked, which results in a more hygienic cluster for the next cow. Conditioning for the herd does not just relate to a balanced diet but also to their housing environment. That is why Dairymaster has developed manure scrapers to ensure a more hygienic environment for herds and better udder health. Their automatic scrapers give unequalled standards of reliability and adaptability. As cow numbers are increasing and buildings get larger, you need a robust, strong and efficient scraper. Dairymaster cooling tanks keep the milk in better condition and reduces the electricity used. Even following a power failure, the milk in the tank will only vary in temperature by less than half a degree in 24 hours. The customer can text the tank and it will text them back with information as requested. The tank wash system is designed to provide powerful, thorough and fast cleaning.
  30. 30. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 30 DAIRY FARMING EXPANDS INTASMANIA Steve SEFTON, DeLaval, Ireland Tasmania, which is off southeast Australia, is almost as large as the Republic of Ireland. Over the past 10 years there has been a 19.5 per cent increase in milk production there, compared to an overall decrease of 15 per cent for Australia. Here we report on the experiences of one local family and how the national trend has been reflected on their farm Tasmania is the only state to show growth, based around sustainable management practices and efficient production systems. Like Ireland, they also have a favourable climate for pasture-based farming. There are 430 dairy farms in Tasmania. Total milk production for 2011/12 was approximately 800m litres. This is eight per cent of the total milk production for Australia and the equivalent of 85 per cent of the total processed by Dairygold, our largest Coop which has 3,000 milk suppliers. Case study:The Crowden family The installation of a DeLaval VMS (voluntary milking system) enabled the Crowden family to convert an out farm into a highly profitable dairy enterprise. Their 80ha farm (50ha grazing platform) supports 205 spring- calving milkers and they plan to increase to 240 cows next season. The operation involves less than a full time labour equivalent (0.75 FTE). The family believes the key to the system running smoothly is the integrated herd management software which operates the robots, out of parlour feeders and cow traffic. Marcus Crowden and his wife Zed, farm in partnership with his parents Denis and Sheryl, operating two farms at Caveside near Launceston. When their home farm reached its milking capacity they looked at options for expansion. According to Marcus: “The out farm was 5km from home, so automatic milking was a profitable way for us to increase our herd without buying more land locally or employing extra staff. It allowed us to increase the herd from 320 to 450 (500 cows are planned for next year) and total milk production from 2.4 to 3.2m litres.” In mid-2012 they installed two DeLaval VMS robots and three out of parlour feeders, but within a year, added another robot and three more out of parlour feeders to increase the herd size. On average, dairy herds are smaller in Ireland but the same benefits apply where a voluntary milk system suits the farm situation and the farmer. Marcus says: “We were pleasantly surprised how quickly we adapted to the new system. I expected it to take a full season to get used to the three-way grazing, working out a routine and learning the hardware and software of the VMS system. But after just four months, our system was running smoothly and we were enjoying the benefits of automated milking,” Marcus said. Working remotely A key to its success for the Crowdens has been their ability to manage much of the operation remotely, through the computer at home, or using a smartphone. Farm fragmentation is a major issue in Ireland with an average of 3.5 land parcels per farm in 2007 so the Crowden situation is very relevant for many dairy farmers here. Marcus explains: “We can see what’s happening through two web cameras located at the milking plant. And we have remote control of the
  31. 31. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 31 robots, smart gates and feeding system through Delpro, the herd management system that came with the robots. So even if we are in Melbourne on holiday we can keep track of what’s happening and sort out most issues that arise. We really enjoy that flexibility.” Marcus is pragmatic about the amount of time he spends on the computer. “DelPro records an enormous amount of data. I spend about 15 minutes a day reviewing reports on production, milking frequency and feed intake. About once a week I’ll spend an hour looking at records in more detail,” he said. All of the herd data is recorded in Delpro so all the records are in the one place and easily accessible. “Every time a cow does something, it is recorded. Nearly all of it is automatic. The main data we enter manually covers heat detection, inseminations and health treatments for mastitis. The only category that takes time is the inseminations; I generally record that in a notebook and enter it into the computer on a rainy day.” On weekdays, Marcus spends two to three hours at the out farm, but prefers to work longer on Friday and Monday to allow him to have most of the weekend off. “When I’m playing football, I can organise it so that I only spend 15 or 20 minutes a day at the farm on the weekends.” Marcus has been particularly pleased with the out of parlour feeders which enable individual feeding. “We installed them primarily to encourage cow flow – so the cows had a reason to want to leave the robots after milking. Individual feeding means we are getting much better value for our investment in concentrates by directing more feed to the higher producing cows. “DelPro is really user-friendly. And I liked the way we could run with the system settings in the early days but have the flexibility to customise settings to our own needs if we want. With such a high stocking rate (4.25 cows/ha at present and expected to reach 5 cows/ha next year), Marcus keeps a close eye on production per ha. Now in its second season, Marcus is aiming to produce 2000kg milk solids/ha. While cows are fed an average of 2-2t concentrates per lactation, Marcus is also aiming for very high pasture utilisation: 20 tonnes/ha. “We have to get our pasture allocation right to maintain voluntary cow movement around the system. It isn’t as hard as I expected. But I am also keen to achieve high pasture utilisation because it has so much impact on our profitability.” The number of cows visiting the robots is relatively even throughout the day and night, although surprisingly, the busiest time is between midnight and 4am. In pasture-based automatic milking systems, this is often a period when few cows present to be milked. Grazing sessions This is because these cows typically rest from about 2am to about 5am following a grazing session around midnight. Marcus has programmed his system allow access to fresh feed four times a day as follows: 1:40am-8:30am – 45 per cent of daily pasture allocation; 8:30am-4:30pm –  35 per cent of daily pasture allocation; 4:30pm-11:00pm – 20 per cent of daily pasture allocation; and, 11pm-1:40am – feed pad (brewers grain or silage). At the peak of lactation Marcus aims for cows to be milked three times a day on average, although the higher producing cows will be milked as often as four times a day. “For example, in November we had a cow producing 70-80L/day and she was being milked 3.6 times a day.” The FutureDairy team(FutureDairy is an RD development programme to help Australian dairy farmers manage the likely challenges of the next 20 years) recently analysed the labour efficiency on the Crowden’s robotic farm. They estimate that the Crowdens have 0.75 labour units for 205 cows, which is equivalent to 270 cows per full time equivalent (FTE), more than double the Tasmanian average of 100 cows per FTE and well above the average of the top 25% (137 cows/FTE). DeLaval AMS systems specialist, Anthony Baxter, said the Crowdens have the best performing AMS set up that he has seen in Australia. “They have an amazing ability with DelPro software. They picked it up very easily and use it to run their farm remotely – so the system works for them rather than them working for the system,” Mr Baxter said. The irony is that Marcus still milks cows on the home farm. “We’ll be ready for a new dairy on the home farm in 5-8 years and robots will be the first option we look at,” Marcus said. ——Glanbia milk supplier, Marcus Grey with DeLavalVoluntary Milking System (VMS) robotic milking system. On this farm,  twoVMS units were installed in October, 2011, and another VMS unit is on order.
  32. 32. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 32 PITFALLS OF SILO CONSTRUCTION Tom RYAN, Teagasc Specialist Service, Kildalton Building a silage pit below specification is foolhardy. Using good workmanship and correctly specified materials will give value for money. Careful attention to detail during construction will lengthen the lifespan of the pit and ensure effluent is collected and conveyed to storage without fail. The extra cost of this attention to detail will only add about 10-15 per cent to the cost. Adequate hardcore compaction, correct procedures for placing concrete, proper curing, effective forming and sealing of joints are all areas where neglect can spell disaster. Silage pits are classified as storage structures under the Nitrates directive. As a result, they must be designed, sited, constructed, maintained and managed to prevent run-off or seepage, directly or indirectly, into groundwater or surface water. They must also be constructed according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine specifications (even in the absence of grants). Relevant specifications (S) are S100 (concrete), S128 (silage bases), S128A (re-surfacing) and S120 (for walled pits). These are available on or from your Teagasc adviser. Checking for defects If an old silage pit is defective then careful assessment is called for to decide on the best course of action. The defects you are looking for are: subsidence; a poor foundation; eroded areas; leaking joints; cracks; and absent, leaking or ineffective channels. Even without power washing, you can check for evidence of these defects. One can test for subsidence and a weak foundation by bouncing a fencing post on the slab. If you hear a hollow sound then this indicates a poor foundation, whereas, a floor with full support and no cracks will emit a sharper thud. If there are a lot of cracks present, the slab will be structurally unsound. The cracks allow effluent to leak into the foundation and soil underneath, thereby weakening the slab. Pouring a new slab over this floor is not recommended because the same problems will start to crop up in a few years. If the channels are worn or cracked, the only effective way to rectify them is to replace them. Worn and eroded concrete areas of the floor may look bad but if there are no cracks present then it will do. However, over time erosion of concrete at joints may make it difficult to maintain the joint seal intact. Where the old floor is extensively cracked, the entire floor and its foundation need to be taken up and a new floor laid in its place. Or maybe the new silage slab should be built on a new site. Replacing an existing silage base: If the pit is part of a bigger yard, use a concrete road saw to cut a straight line between what you want to retain and replace. This will give a smooth, sealable edge against which you can butt the new slab; remove the existing floor and any hardcore material; excavate any soft spots down to solid ground. The cost of site works and hardcore material for replacing an existing silage base is usually a significant extra cost (€5/m2 +), which should be considered when determining costs; place a new layer of graded hardcore over the site and extend up to wall foundations, if any, or at least 300mm beyond the proposed edges of the floor; compact the hardcore with a vibrating roller to a finished depth of at least 150mm. Hardcore placed in excavated deep soft spots should be compacted in 150mm layers. Failure to compact the hardcore material adequately will lead to subsidence and lack of support for the slab and channels, causing cracking under the weight of machinery. This problem cannot be rectified once the slab is completed; bind the compacted hardcore with sand and run the vibrating roller over it to bed it in. Lay a sheet of
  33. 33. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 33 1,000-gauge polythene on the finished foundation; order the concrete only to the approved department specification – S100; and, place and compact the concrete to a finished depth of 125mm. The concrete must be thickened to at least 150mm under the base of the channels. The slab should be compacted using a vibrating screed and poker vibrator. Laying concrete is regarded as simple yet, defects from poor workmanship can be seen. Preventing moisture loss – curing Curing must be a priority as this process prevents evaporation of water from near the surface of the newly placed concrete. This water is necessary for complete hydration (setting and hardening) of the concrete. As a result, the finished concrete has a harder, less porous, dust-free surface with no hairline cracks. It is important not to add too much water to the mix but it is even more important to retain the water until the cement reacts with it to form concrete. Where curing is neglected the concrete in the top 40-50mm won’t be as durable. Curing should begin as soon as possible after placing the concrete. Covering with polythene is the most practical method. Problems arise because there is a tendency to use old sheets and not to secure the sheet properly, especially around the edges. Wind blows in under the sheet, causing the surface to dry rapidly. The concrete will be cured properly if moisture stays on the surface of the slab and on the underside of the polythene. Other problems arise because the sheet is usually thrown back during the day to allow for further construction and it may be removed altogether before the concrete has cured properly. The sheet should be left in place for seven to 10 days. Polythene will protect the surface finish from heavy rain just after laying the concrete. Contraction joints As concrete hardens, it cools and starts to contract or shrink. Joints must be formed to control the degree of contraction and confine it to the joints. Expansion joints may also be necessary as concrete does expand when heated by the sun, although expansion joints are only necessary in long stretches of concrete roads and yards, every 70m or so. If no joints are cut or formed, cracks will form in time, usually within the first year. If a crack is left to develop it will zigzag, making it very difficult to seal, whereas a joint that is formed or cut in a straight line is easy to seal. If a base is laid in bays, joints should be cut across the bay within 24 hours of pouring the concrete. Space joints every 4.5m, 5m or 6m, depending on the width of the bay e.g. if bays are 6m wide have 4.5m between the joints. The depth of this joint should be one quarter to one third the thickness of the slab. Shallow tracks are useless. The joint should be cut deeper near the channels (the concrete is thicker there) and to the outside of the base. Across the base of the channel, this only needs to be cut to 20mm, just deep enough to hold the sealant. A natural contraction joint is formed between two bays cast alongside each other. With these joints, all you need to do is cut a shallow track between the bays. The track only needs to be 12-20mm deep and wide, enough to carry and hold the sealant. If the base is poured in one complete slab, all joints should be cut within 24 hours. Joints should be spaced so that the slab is made up of 5 x 5m or 4.5 x 6m sections. In this case all joints should be cut to one quarter to one third of the thickness of the slab. Sealing joints When the slab has cured properly, the next thing is to prepare joints for sealing. Prepare the joints, which have already been cut, by widening them out to 12-20mm near the surface. Joints between bays can be prepared by cutting a track or groove along the dividing line. The hand-held con-saw can be used for this. The sealant can be poured or gunned into this track or groove. Wash or brush out all the joints thoroughly to remove all dust etc. If joints are wet allow them to dry. It is essential to prime the joints. Sealant used without a primer will not get a good grip in a joint. Two types of sealant are commonly used, either hot poured (rubberised bitumen) or gun applied (polyurethane). Hot bitumen is only suitable for horizontal joints. Do not use non-flexible blown bitumen. It is not rubberised, brittle when cold, has no flexibility and, with any small movement in the joint, it will shear and leak. Gun-applied
  34. 34. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 34 polyurethane or bitumen-based sealants can be used for wall joints and floor joints. Silage effluent channels Silage pits must have channels to collect and drain the effluent. A base must have channels on all four sides. A silage apron is also required (see S128) in front of the base. It can be used for filling/emptying and if the pit gets too full. The channel system for the base and apron should be separate and independently drained. The most important feature of any channel is that it has a vertical edge to intercept effluent and a fall to carry it away. Silage effluent should enter the channels under the cover of the silage polythene and the edge of the ensiled grass should not extend onto or over any channel. A selection of channels taken from specification S128 are shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3. Open space, to allow effluent to flow, is maintained by placing a plastic pipe in the channel or a cover as in Figure 3. Dimensions can be increased so the depth and width are both about 100mm. This makes it possible to fit a larger pipe in the channel with room for effluent to seep in. Effluent should be conveyed to the tank in sealed uPVC sewer pipes. Figure 4 (S128) shows how a pipe elbow can be used to drain away effluent and also divert clean water outlet when the pit is empty. Diverted water is visible because it flows over the concrete surface. Replacing a section of the floor slab Timely work will prevent more costly repairs in future. If sections of the floor have subsided and cracked it is ——Figure 1: Side edge or back edge channel for a silage base ——Figure 2: Front channel/cross channel. A bigger channel (100x100mm) will give better drainage.The concrete must be thickened to 150mm under the base.
  35. 35. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 35 only necessary to break out and replace the affected concrete. Use a concrete road or hand-held con-saw to avoid unnecessary damage and to provide straight cut edges to make it easy to seal the joints between old and new sections. Remove the old concrete and hardcore. Any soggy and blackened subsoil will have to be dug out and filled with new hardcore material. Compact the hardcore material with vibrating roller, and bring it up to within 125mm of the finished floor level. Placing a thicker layer of hardcore and concrete where the new meets the old makes it a better job. The smallest area that should be considered for a repair like this is about 25m2 . All the other recommendations above that apply to new silage bases also apply to this renewed section of slab. Siting a new silage pit Look at all the options before deciding on the most suitable site. Plenty of space is needed for the machinery used by silage contractors. The best location will usually be either in front of or alongside the winter housing, making it convenient for feeding out during the winter and for piping effluent to tanks. Leave room for any future developments and expansion. ——Figure 4: Channel drainage and clean water surface diversion system——Figure 3: Alternative front channel
  36. 36. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 36 HIGH BIRTHWEIGHTSAND GOOD MILK SUPPLY ESSENTIAL FOR PROFITABLE LAMB PRODUCTION Dr Tommy BOLAND, School of Agriculture and Food Science, UCD Tuas maith, leath na h-oibre – a good start is half the work. Never was this saying more apt than when it comes to lamb growth rate. Heavier lambs at birth give you heavier lambs at weaning. A 1kg increase in lamb birth weight will ensure lambs are 2-3kg heavier at weaning. In most cases, this difference in weaning weight will be retained until slaughter. In addition to this, nutrition of the lamb in early life is absolutely critical to ensure good weaning weights and a short interval to slaughter post weaning. While in certain highly managed conditions, the lamb can be weaned onto an all- concentrate diet at six-weeks-old, in our typical pasture- based systems the lamb is almost entirely dependent on milk for the first six to seven weeks. This is gradually reduced until 13-weeks-old when the lamb is able to compensate by increasing its intake of solid feed. At the recommended weaning age of 14-weeks-old, the lamb is able to perform well on a largely grass diet. The suckling lamb is at its most efficient in the first six/seven weeks of life. With a dry matter (DM) content of 20 per cent, ewe milk contains a much higher level of milk solids than cow’s milk and the young lamb can convert this to live weight gain on a 1:1 ratio. For every kg of milk DM the lamb consumes, it will increase its weight by 1kg. This level of efficiency will never be repeated in the lifetime of a lamb. Even on an all concentrate diet lambs will convert DM to live weight gain with an efficiency of only between 3.5-4.5kg of DM to 1kg of gain. Milk production is influenced primarily by nutrient intake, body condition score, litter size and age of the ewe. Peak milk production for a twin-bearing ewe is 21 days after lambing, and 28 days after birth for a single-bearing ewe, depending on the nutrition of the ewe.
  37. 37. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 37 Month (relative to lambing) -2 -1 Lambing 1 2 3 ME (MJ/d) 13.5 17 20.2 32.4 24.2 16.2 MP (g/d) 105 122 137 303 228 152 ——Table 1: Metabolisable energy (ME; MJ/day) and metabolisable protein (MP; g/day) requirements of a twin-bearing ewe in late pregnancy and lactation. Table 1 indicates the ME requirements of a twin-bearing ewe during the final two months of pregnancy and the first three months of lactation. The increase in intake by the ewe is slower than her increase in energy requirements, resulting in the mobilisation of body reserves and a loss of body condition. This is a normal and important part of the production cycle. It is recommended that the average condition for a flock at lambing is 3.0. Ewes with a body condition score of 3.5+ may have lower lactation-intake potential when compared to ewes with a BCS of 3.0. Between mid- pregnancy and early lactation, an affordable drop of up to 1.0 unit of a BCS is acceptable. During late pregnancy, no more than a 0.5 unit drop in BCS is advised. This 0.5 unit drop is equivalent to approximately 100MJ ME of energy. Spread over seven weeks, the daily energy supply coming from this BCS change is equivalent to the energy content of 150g of barley. However, excessive mobilisation of body reserves during late pregnancy can lead to twin lamb disease, hence monitoring of ewe BCS is vital. In terms of supplementing the ewe, this is easier to do in late pregnancy than early lactation, in so far as possible, energy reserves should be used in early lactation rather than late pregnancy. Teagasc data indicates that spring grass, with a sward height of greater than 4cm, should be adequate during early lactation. Where sward heights are less than 4cm supplementation is advisable to sustain flock performance. For the ewe to efficiently utilise her body reserves in early lactation, she must have adequate protein intakes. For ewes at pasture, protein levels are generally adequate. Recent work from Lyons Research Farm, University College Dublin indicates that DM content influences grass intake. This is particularly relevant in light of the very wet spring we had this year. Intake falls as herbage DM content falls. The need for concentrate supplementation needs to be considered in this regard. While optimum grassland management and grass quality can support very high lamb growth rates, reductions in grass supply and quality need to be addressed promptly, especially in the first six weeks of lactation, to ensure performance is not compromised. Data from Lyons shows that milk supply during this early life period has a dramatic effect on lamb growth. A comparison between twin-born lambs reared as twins, and twin born lambs reared as singles, clearly shows that even with twin suckling lambs, milk supply can have a limiting factor on lamb growth rate. Lambs born as twins, suckled as singles were 2.8kg heavier at five weeks of age than their counterparts, which were born and reared as twins. This difference in weight at five weeks of age came in spite of having the same birth weight.
  38. 38. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 38 PROFIT FROM EWES ONA SMALL FARM Rodney MCGOWAN How do you make a good living from 70ac (28.3ha) in West Tyrone? The key question that drew almost 200 sheep farmers to an AgriSearch farm walk, hosted by Isaac Crilly of Lislaird, Castlederg. The answer, Isaac explained, is to maximise your kilos of lamb sold per ewe and above all, per acre. “A U grade lamb returns an extra £2 over a run of the mill R grade, but producing an extra 0.1kg lambs weaned per ewe means another £8, so carcass quality is not our key consideration,” Isaac revealed. Isaac‘s 2013 sales averaged 1.58 lambs per ewe, including ewe lambs. A 19kg carcasses averaging £119 a piece would leave a benchmarked gross margin per ha of £548. An impressive £170/ha more than the Northern Ireland benchmarked average as a result of high stocking rates. Ewes lamb during March and April and the stocking rate is 19 ewes per ha. The output on this progressive farm last year was 567kg carcass of lamb per ha. The Crilly family have been hosting AFBI on farm research for the last 15 years. Breeding developments breed interest At the AgriSearch event farmers showed tremendous interest in breeding systems used to produce this impressive profit. Isaac has Belclare, NZ Suffolk and Meatlinc rams put to composite ewes, and is one of five producers involved in an AFBI, Hillsborough rotational- breeding investigation. Findings from this research on selecting ewe replacements demonstrated the potential of using composite ewes in terms of production efficiency, that is, lamb output per kg of ewe. The benefits of selecting home-grown ewe replacements, as well as terminal sires, on performance records rather than looks alone, were clear to see on the bottom line of this impressive farm business. With limited acreage Isaac and Elizabeth Crilly make no silage, therefore, the ewes are fed only on grass, straw and concentrate.
  39. 39. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 39 MAJOR LAUNCHES REVAMPED DISC MOWER Major has launched another heavy-duty mower to its machinery range, the revamped ProMow Disc Mower. According to Major, the mower is user-friendly and can be easily mounted to the tractor by a single operator. It folds neatly and safely into a 1.8m transport width. The mower has a heavy-duty PTO with overrun for added protection of the cutting bar. With blades manufactured from 4mm hardened steel, Major says that the ProMow gives an excellent cut using the strong and reliable 6-disc Comer cutting bar. The cutting bar is easy to access for routine maintenance. The ProMow also has a parallel linkage, which gives the bed a flat lift on headlands or in awkward field contours. To reduce wear and tear on the belts, the heavy-duty, spring-loaded pulley tensioner gives consistent tension while the grass board allows the swath to be neatly aligned and separated from uncut material. Easyfit topping skids are supplied as standard for heavier cutting conditions.
  40. 40. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 40 IMPROVE SILAGE QUALITYWITH MOLASSES Brian CAMPION, Premier Molasses Regarding the feed value of the crop at cutting, this depends on: Crop maturity at harvest – stemmier, more mature crops have lower feed value Sward type – many old pasture swards dominated by poor grasses have lower feed value than swards of perennial ryegrass Sward conditions – lodged, wet crops can rapidly lose quality and have a lower feed value at harvest. Similarly, swards that were not grazed sufficiently short in autumn or spring can have a stemmy decaying butt that can reduce feed value at harvest. The efficiency of crop ensilment, preservation and feeding out depends on only attempting to wilt the crop if it can genuinely dry rapidly and ensiling it free of contamination from soil, manure etc. If required, apply even and adequate appropriate additive. Fast-filling followed by immediate good sealing should ensure the ensiled forage is stored in an air-free environment with the seal protected throughout storage. Management at feed-out that minimises the duration of exposure of silage to air is also necessary. Silage-making process The basic process in silage making is the conversion of plant sugars to fermentation acids, which preserves the silage from attack by spoilage organisms. An essential part of this is the exclusion of air, firstly to allow fermentation to occur and secondly to prevent mould growth during storage. Therefore, for good preservation there are two essentials: adequate sugars and airtight conditions. Sugars are adequate when there is about 3 per cent soluble sugar in the grass juice. However, this is a variable figure depending on other conditions. Good silage can be made even at a sugar level of 2 per cent, but below this is very risky. Dry matter has a huge effect on sugar concentration, which is why weather at harvesting is so crucial. Sugar levels increase in sunny weather and with increasing grass maturity. Sugar levels can be up to 50 per cent higher in ryegrasses than old pasture grasses. Mowing when dry, followed by rapid wilting, gives a higher sugar concentration. The estimation of sugar levels in grass juice gives a useful guide to the capacity of a crop to preserve. This can be done by sending samples to a lab or by measurement with a sugar refractometer at local advisory offices. If sugar levels are too low, the addition of a sugar
  41. 41. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014 41 source such as molasses is a convenient solution. Apply between nine and 18 litres per tonne of fresh forage, depending on its condition. Another advantage of using molasses is the stickiness of the molasses, which helps bind the forage in the silo tightly together. This reduces the air in the clamp, raising hygiene and increasing the forage that can to be held in the clamp. The bacteria that turn sugar into acid only grow in the absence of air. Therefore, rapid and sustained exclusion of air is necessary for preservation. The faster air is excluded, the more of the original sugar that is available for the production of acids. Fast filling and good compaction quickly establishes air-free conditions in the pit. Effective sealing is essential to maintain air-free conditions during the storage period. Heating in the top two feet of the clamp after opening is fairly common and is very difficult to control especially in smaller operations where the rate of usage of the clamp is slow. It is necessary to give the top of the clamp plenty of rolling before covering and then to weigh down well. Why does molasses benefit silage quality? Molasses stimulates fermentation and facilitates natural silage preservation; it increases lactic acid production, lowers ammonia-N and silage pH; and improves dry matter digestibility (DMD) and silage intake. Molasses is also a rich source of natural sugar and energy. When should molassses be used? Heavy crops (high N application) near heading date Leafy crops with less than 2.5 per cent sugars Unwilted or lightly wilted crops. Unfavourable/broken weather conditions How much molasses should be used? Molasses application rates (grass preservation) Grass sugars (WSC) Molasses application Kg/tonne Litre/tonne Gallon/tonne 0-1 per cent 26 18 4 1-2 per cent 19 14 3 2-3 per cent 13 9 2 Typical requirement at 9 litres/tonne silage 10 t/ac 12t/ac 15t/ac 20 acres 1,800 L 2,160 L 2,700 L 60 acres 5,400 L 6,480 L 8,100 L Figure 1: Some 14l of molasses per tonne of fresh crop will raise the sugar (WSC) content by 1 per cent.