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Reducing Feed Waste in the Dairy Herd

Along with improving feed conversion efficiency (FCE), reducing feed waste is another area that can help enhance productivity, reduce waste, make best use of purchased feed and help reduce emissions intensity from the dairy herd, according to SAC Consulting’s Lorna MacPherson.

Areas where feed wastage can occur include:

  • In the field: Feed value can be maximised by reseeding regularly and using grass varieties on the recommended list e.g. FAS Technical Note Recommended Grass & Clover Varieties. Good grassland management with rotational grazing practices will also help to ensure high nutritional feed value. Cutting grass for silage at the optimal time also reduces nutritional losses.
  • During storage: Losses in forage dry matter and quality can be minimised by ensuring good consolidation and sheeting of the pit during silage making to prevent aerobic spoilage. Once the pit is open, aim to move back by 1.5m/week and twice as much in summer to avoid spoilage/heating on the face which will reduce feed value.
  • At feedout: Many factors may affect dry matter intake such as feed and water trough space and ration sorting. Intakes can be encouraged with regular pushing up of feed, ensuring it is evenly distributed along the length of the feed passage, and by moving from once a day to twice a day feedout.  Fresh feed is the biggest stimulus for encouraging intakes, which will benefit milk production and FCE.

Read the full version in our  “Working Towards Net-Zero - Improving feed conversion efficiency and reducing waste in the dairy herd”  Practical Guide on our ‘Optimising Livestock Performance’ pages here.

Do Dairy Cows Need Soya?

Across SRUC’s dairy herds in the South West of Scotland, soya in purchased blends has been replaced with a combination of rape meal, protected rape meal and distillers wheat dark grains.

The blends were carefully reformulated to have a similar energy, protein and bypass protein levels.  Soya hulls were also removed and replaced with sugar beet pulp and a small amount of palm kernel to maintain digestible fibre levels.

There has been very little change in milk output or milk composition, highlighting that high yielding dairy cows can perform well without soya.