Lallemand Animal Nutrition
United Kingdom & Ireland - English   [ change ]
What's new

Sep 06, 2022

Grass, maize and wholecrop quality key for housed dairy herds

Sep 06, 2022

Farm facts 

  • Location: Welshpool, Wales 
  • Milking 1,450 Holstein cows 
  • 2,500 acres which is dedicated to producing grass, maize and wholecrop silage 
  • Fully housed, all-year-round calving system 
  • All cows are put to Holstein AI, with the heifers kept as replacements and the bulls finished on one of their other sites 
  • 10,800 litres per cow per year average milk yield 
  • 38.5 ppl margin over purchased feed 
  • An Opticut silage system is followed to produce high-quality silage 

Fraser Jones milks 1,450 cows across two sites in Powys, operating a fully housed, all-year-round calving system. All heifers are retained for the milking herd, whiledairy bulls are taken through to finishing, meaning the farm typically carries 4,000-head of cattle at any one time.  

With a significant number of animals to feed, producing as much high-quality home-grown forage as possible is key for the business and nearly all of the 2,500-acre farm is dedicated to forage production. 

“Our cows are producing 36 litres per day on twice a day milking, with a decent percentage coming from forage. This is helping to support a good margin over purchased feed (MOPF) of 38.5ppl.   

“We’re not currently trying to push for higher yields, as this level of production suits our herd and allows us to maintain high fertility and health standards. That said, if staffing allows in the future, we’d like to move up to three times a day milking, where we’d hope to reach 40 litres per cow per day,” he adds. 

“There isn’t the opportunity to take on more land, therefore increasing herd numbers to raise production isn’t an option. Any future uplift will therefore need to come from the existing herd, which is why moving to three times a day milking is one option being explored.  

Mr Jones explains that with the cows being housed all year, producing enough forage to sustain milk yields is vital for the business and requires careful planning. 

“We work closely with our nutritionist, Anwen Jones from Lallemand Animal Nutrition, to calculate the amount of grass, maize and wholecrop silage required for the year.  

“Concentrates are still a crucial part of the diet, but by producing the best quality forage possible and maximising digestibility, we can keep purchased feed usage at a cost-effective level,” he says.

Maximising the value of fibre

Mr Jones highlights that they try and keep the diets simple and all milking cows receive the same. The diet is formulated with a strong emphasis on rumen health and feed efficiency, which in return helps maximise milk yields by getting more out of the existing feed. 

“We’ve worked closely with Anwen to formulate a ration that suits our cows and system. This consists of 56% forage, with the remainder of the ration made up of a home-made premix which has been formulated to support yields,” he explains. 

The farm’s nutritionist, Anwen Jones, says that Fraser’s forage quality is exceptional this year.

Table 1- Calcourt Farm 2022 grass silage results
Table 2- 2021 Calcourt farm wholecrop and maize silage results

Mrs Jones says that while growing three crops that need to be harvested and managed at different times of the year may seem a lot of work, it helps spread Fraser’s workload and gives greater flexibility in ration formulation, with the different forages complementing one another.   

“Because Fraser uses his own machinery to produce all the forage, he’s able to cut at the right time, which has really helped him to get the forage results he has.

Maximising the feed value of wholecrop

Wholecrop is the most difficult crop to work with and can be prone to heating. Due to its high straw content, it’s more challenging to compact meaning air can be present which slows fermentation and so there’s a number of important steps to take.  

  • Harvest at the correct time 
  • Use a crop and condition specific inoculant such as Magniva Platinum Wholecrop 
  • Take care when clamping the crop 

Mrs Jones explains that the grass and maize component of the ration helps to achieve good milk yields, while wholecrop helps maintain butterfat.  

“Wholecrop provides a good source of fermentable starch energy, while its high straw content means it can help balance a highly digestible grass-based diet with physically effective fibre, supporting rumen health and feed efficiency. In years when Calcourt Farm has run out of wholecrop, the butterfat’s have really dropped off,” she says.

Maximising feed efficiency

To further enhance rumen health and ration digestibility, a live yeast – Levucell SC Toxisorb – is incorporated into the concentrate premix to help maintain rumen pH, improving rumen function and therefore feed efficiency, and to also specifically target potential toxins.  

“We need the cow to convert as much feed as possible into energy to drive milk production. Feeding a live yeast really supports this goal, aiding with fibre breakdown but also with the utilisation of the diet overall, by maintaining a favourable rumen environment,” explains Mr Jones.  

“Feeding so many cows can be challenging and small changes can have a big impact. Investing time in working with your nutritionist to plan forage requirements and then taking steps to help ensure that you produce sufficient volumes of high-quality forage is key.  You can then complement your forage with an appropriate pre-mix, helping to drive yields while leaving a good MOPF,” he concludes.