Stretching forage supplies with straw and molasses for winter 2017/18

It has been widely flagged that this winter will be a difficult one for stock farmers. Forage reserves are depleted on many farms, as poor weather conditions during the summer months hampered attempts to harvest good quality grass silage. However, even in the bleakest of situations there are still choices available to farmers. Purchasing of straights, liquid feeds, forages or good quality feeding straw (if available) are all options that should be examined.

If available, incorporating straw to help supplement grass silage is something that farmers should consider, especially in the case of both dry cow and intensive beef finishing diets. Adding straw to a dry cow diet, will not only enable silage supplies to be stretched but will also help maintain cow body condition scores. Forage reserves can then be prioritised towards lactating cows and also growing stock. Introducing a molasses based liquid into these straw based diets will inevitably increase dry matter intakes (DMI) while also increasing the energy value of the diet. Including molasses and straw at over 50% of (DMI) intake levels is possible in some instances, depending on cow body condition scores. Important to note that a good quality dry cow mineral should be added to the diet at least 6 weeks prior to calving.

For finishing beef diets, moving animals to an ad-lib meal diet including straw and a molasses liquid should also be considered where forage reserves are depleted or of poor quality. By doing so, animals will be allowed to achieve their maximum live weight gains while again helping to prioritise forage supplies for other categories of stock. Excellent feed management skills are required when feeding ad-lib to help prevent any digestive upsets and maintain maximum growth rate targets. Adequate animal feeding space and a good supply of clean water should be available at all times for finishing cattle. Including a good quality general purpose mineral for beef finishing diets is also important, in general an application rate of 20g per 100 kg life weight should be sufficient. Please find detailed sample diets formulated for both dry cows and beef finishing animals.  


Diets for 650kg Spring Calving Suckler Cow:

Diet Specification Diet A Diet B Diet C
Grass Silage 64% DMD 2.6 kg/DM 3.0 kg/DM 3.2 kg/DM
Feeding Quality Barley Straw 5.0 kg/DM 6.0 kg/DM 3.0 kg/DM
Nutri Thrive Molasses 2.6 kg/DM ---  
Hi-Pro 50 Molasses --- 3.4 KG/DM 3.7 kg/DM
Energy Requirements 7.6 UFL 7.6 UFL 7.6 UFL
Energy Intake 6.6 UFL 7.0 UFL 6.0 UFL

An energy deficit of 1.5 UFL is tolerable only if the cows are in a body condition score of 3.0 or greater. Energy requirements are based on a 650kg cow 7-8 months in calve. Important to note that a good quality dry cow mineral should be added to the diet at least 6 weeks prior to calving.

Diets for 550kg + finishing animals:

Diet Specification Diet A Diet B
Feeding Quality   Barley Straw 1.3 kg/DM 1.3 kg/DM
Rolled barley 4.7 kg/DM 3.4 kg/DM
Distillers Grains 1.0 kg/DM ---
Soya Bean Hulls 2.4 kg/DM 2.2 kg/DM
Maize Meal --- 2.5 kg/DM
Standard Cane   Molasses 1.1 kg/DM ---
Nutri Thrive   Molasses --- 1.3 kg/DM
Energy Requirement 9.5-12.0 UFV 9.5-12.0 UFV
Energy Intake 10.5 UFV 10.6 UFV
Protein Requirements 11-12% 11-12%
Protein Intake 11.7% 11.0%

Energy values are based on a predicted energy requirement for 550kg cross bred and continental animals gaining 1-1.5 kg per day. The inclusion of a good general purpose mineral is important in all diets.

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