Meal feeding has been an essential part of management for most farmers over the last number of weeks.
The above average rainfall has caused three main problems: grass growth rates well below normal, low grass dry matters, and poor ground conditions making utilisation extremely difficult.
This week we surveyed farmers from all over Ireland to see what farmers are paying for concentrate and, equally as important, what kind of ingredients are included in meal mixes.
What's in the ration really determines the value a farmer is getting.
Our results show a massive variation in terms of price and quality. Price ranged from €244 to €329 to depending on the individual deal. That's a difference of €85/tonne. (See Map).
It is fair to say a number of the lower prices in our survey are from farmers who bought forward earlier in the year.
We can also see that some of the rations purchased are made up of poor quality ingredients which really make the purchased feed a lot more expensive.
For our survey the question we asked farmers was: What is the price per tonne of the meal you are feeding and what is the quality and ingredients listed?
Energy and Protein
Farmers often measure up different rations or nuts on the percentage crude protein (CP) but PDI content rather than the crude protein (CP) content is a better measure.
CP tells you how much protein is in the feed, PDI tells you how much of that protein will actually be used by the cow.
If the protein is of poor quality (low PDI) then a higher crude protein ration just means the cow will be excreting excess nitrogen.
For example, brewers grains has a CP content of 30% and a PDI value of 190g/Kg DM whereas rapeseed meal has a higher CP content at 40% but a lower PDI value of 150g/Kg DM.
The higher CP ration is not necessarily getting more protein into your animal.
In terms of energy the main ingredients in most concentrate nuts are maize, barley, wheat, citrus pulp, maize, soya hulls, soya bean meal and rapeseed extract. The energy value of these ingredients varies dramatically. (See Table 2).
Energy tends to be the first limiting nutrient in a dairy cows on a grazed grass diet and from the table we can see that the better quality ingredients can have up to 0.15 UFLs extra/kg DM.
What's in a kilo?
All this means farmers around the country can be feeding a similar amount of concentrate to their cows but depending in the quality they can be supplying very different amounts of energy and protein.
The standard UFL value (net energy to the animal) in a good nut is 0.94UFL/Kg DM. If feeding three kilos of this we multiply by three and can see that we are supplying the cow with 2.82 UFL from concentrate.
If this was a poorer quality nut a UFL value of 0.86UFL/Kg DM is possible so three kilos is supplying 2.58 UFL.
In energy terms it takes roughly 0.45UFL to produce a litre of milk so the cows on the better ration are potentially producing another half litre of milk/cow/day if milk response if close to 1:1.
The actual response to supplementation depends on a number of things, including cow genetics, stage of lactation and forage availability and quality.
Obviously the price paid by farmers depends on quantities purchased, ingredient type, purchasing group, protein source and payment type.
Some farmers with stock forced back indoors and feeding silage have moved to high Crude Protein (CP) rations of 18% plus costing €300/tonne and more.
In some of these rations the first three ingredients are maize, wheat and soya bean meal, all of which are high quality ingredients.
Some rations are increasing the CP% with the addition of rapeseed extract which has a high CP content (40%) but a much poorer PDI than soya bean meal (151g/Kg DM vs 250g/KgDM).
Rapeseed extract is not worth the same as the soyabean protein source.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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