Updated: Jun 1, 2020
RAMPING UP RAMS
At this time of the year the Ram Team can become bottom of the priority list, however now is the time to set thing up from the breeding season ahead.
It is one of the most important livestock activities if you consider the consequences if rams are not 100%
Take time to assess the Ram Flock and address the 5T's
Click here to download a month by month guide for this Spring in the lead up to preparing your Rams for February joining.
NEW PRODUCT RELEASE - TPM BOOST GO
TPM Boost Go has recently been released onto the market, designed to address metabolic energy losses when grazing high protein pastures and feed crops. Perfectly placed for assisting finishing lambs, cows with calves at foot unlocking growth potential and optimising results from your investments into seed and fertilizer.
For more information on TPM BOOST GO, please click here or contact your local TRAC Expert.
SILAGE vs HAY
The decision to lock up paddocks for fodder conservation is right on our doorstep, but should we be planning for hay or silage?
Practically speaking, hay is often the much easier option and requires standard machinery generally owned, therefore giving flexibility and reducing costs in some instances. Hay can be made from most forages such as Lucerne, vetch, ryegrass or pasture mixes, cereals and a few other crops. Once cut and dried, it can be bailed up and quite easily stored and relocated as needed and used immediately.
Quality hay is generally around 89% dry matter and generally in excess of 50% NDF (cereal & grass), with cereal in a regular season sitting between 55-60% NDF and energy 8-9 ME.
The 2018 harvest was special, in that it brought through some excellent quality cereal hays with NDF (low 50s), high energy (10 ME) and high sugars (15% +) where growth and production goals were realised, meaning we can have great quality cereal! Cereals have fantastic bulk and are easy to manage, however they are low in protein, 10-11% where we are generally chasing 11-16% protein in beef and sheep diets. This is where protein hays and good quality pasture hay adds value, but it can easily be left too long standing or on the ground and quality significantly declines.
• Less margin for error when cutting, remember to cut early and chase quality
• Can be fed immediately to all classes of stock
• Lower harvesting cost
• Can be easily relocated
• Potentially higher NDF compared to silage
• Longer drying time, increased risk of mould and therefore quality loss
So what about silage?
The greatest benefit of silage is when we have the opportunity for multiple cuts from the same paddock, it doesn’t need the drying time of hays and therefore can be cut, bailed/stacked and stored within a couple of days and the pasture or crop can begin growing again.
Silage has the potential to yield great quality feed that is closer in relation to grass than hay is, with dry matters 35-45% depending on species, energy 9-9.5 and NDF 45-55 percent for well conserved forage.
Ideal varieties for ensiling include cereal crops and pasture grasses.
• Can be high quality, therefore increased energy and intake potential
• Opportunity for more cuts from the same paddock or better grazing opportunity
• Can have greater protein retained
• Different machinery required
• Higher cost
• If done poorly can spoil
• Cannot be moved easily: build the stack or leave the bales close to feed out area. Once baled, each time silage is relocated, oxygen enters and increases spoilage (Not a problem if relocating to feed out that day).
• Not recommended to fully feed young animals
Both have a valuable role in feeding livestock, ideally a combination of both with a mixture of cereal and protein varieties is ideal to meet requirements though different times of the year.
For comparative table of the value of silage vs hay and a copy of this article whether the decision to lock up paddocks for hay or silage is the best fodder conservation choice, please click here.
LIFTING THE BAR THROUGH QUALITY SILAGE
It almost seems too soon to want to think about, but the time is approaching to consider which paddocks will be locked up for silage ready for that first cut in spring.
Silage is an excellent tool for filling in summer feed gaps, making use of excess grass grown in spring and reducing purchased fodder costs, when done right.
There are two main areas that impact growth, reproduction and profitability, firstly we look at transition protocol and smoothly introducing livestock from one feed source to the new type, the second is overall quality of the feed. We often get asked how to reduce grain use through summer and keep daily gains up – the trick is higher quality forage. The more energy and protein packed into their fodder; less is required through grain.
Chasing quality instead of bulk results in a more consistent body condition score to be maintained coming out of spring, this leads to better fertility, better calf or lamb rearing for summer groups and much greater post weaning growth. A young, growing animal requires upwards of 16% crude protein. Dry standing feed, cereal hay and mature cut silage sit around 5-13% protein, meaning additional protein (and energy) is needed to be fed or genetic potential isn’t getting realized.
Late cut silage can result in high NDF (or fill factor when feeding ruminants), meaning less can be consumed therefore less energy and less protein. The trade-off of chasing quality is that you will have a little less total feed, this can be managed by doing a simple fodder budget by calculating out your expected harvest (inc. shrinkage and wastage) and matching it to the number of animals you will need to feed.
In the long run, it is more cost effective to top up with a cheaper poorer quality forage than lost growth, fertility and lambs on the ground come Autumn.
What makes good silage?
Cut early, chase quality not bulk. Remember, poor quality forage cut, won’t improve once bailed/stacked and will result in even poorer quality coming out.