TIME4GRAZING: Nutritionists advise to take care with early spring turnout

Nutritionists advise to take care with early spring turnout

With high feed costs comes a natural eagerness to release animals onto “cheaper” spring grass as soon as conditions permit.

And with many already turned out, or turning out in the coming days or weeks, we need peace of mind that they are getting the right levels – no more and no less – of the nutrients required for health and performance. Graph 1 illustrates how typical levels of magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), calcium (Ca) and potassium (K) in pasture vary over the spring/summer grazing period.

Nutritionists advise to take care with early spring turnout

The challenge is that we often don’t know whether our animals are deficient until the signs of that deficiency have already started impacting on performance.

Overcoming the magnesium challenge

We all know that spring grass is typically low in magnesium and rich in rumen degradable protein (RDP).

High RDP can lead to an ammonia build up in the rumen, which in turn can prevent effective magnesium absorption.

Furthermore, lush grass that is low in fibre has a higher rate of digestive passage – meaning there is less time available for magnesium absorption.

This is perfect storm is where the danger of magnesium deficiency (known as hypomagnesaemia and often referred to as grass staggers) comes in.

This can impact on all ruminants but not least to mention in pre-calving dairy cows susceptible to milk fever and metabolic disorders when magnesium deficient.

By introducing a molasses-based liquid feed into a buffer TMR ration or as a straight, you are offering 6-carbon sugars that aid in protein utilisation – helping to:

  • prevent ammonia build up,
  • support magnesium absorption, and
  • reduce the risk of grass staggers.

Why feed magnesium through a liquid molasses?

As magnesium is relatively bitter and unpalatable in its raw form, offering it within a high sugar content molasses-based liquid feeds ensures intakes are achieved. The sugar is also known through research to speed up absorption of magnesium across the gut wall.

Working with global leaders ED&F Man – we are the go-to suppliers of molasses-based liquid feeds throughout the midlands to northern parts of the U.K.

Get in touch now to lock-in your minimum liquid feed supply* to cover you for the spring, summer and autumn 2022 period.

Call 01228 520212

 *As a standard indicator, we advise feeding cattle 1kg/head/day and sheep 200g/head/day.

TIME4GRAZING – Feeding cows at spring turnout

Feeding dairy cows at spring turnout

With silage currently costing approximately £1.50 per percentage of dry matter (DM) to produce and grass costing considerably less, assessing the quality of grass before and after turnout and using the findings to accurately inform forage and concentrate rations will help improve milk from grass this spring.

Balancing diets at turnout to prevent milk yield, butterfat levels or cow health from being affected needs to be a priority. Make sure you take the following steps to avoid these issues:

Analyse grass prior to turnout

Before spring turnout, it’s a good idea to call your local on-farm specialist to conduct grass analysis to help establish the potential milk from grazing to ensure optimum milk yield and quality are achieved.

Once an accurate estimate of milk yield from grass is obtained, dairy diets can be accurately balanced with concentrates and forage. Carr’s Billington can help with this using their DietCheck™ rationing programme.

Grass should be sampled between every two and four weeks after turnout and diets adjusted accordingly throughout the grazing season for two reasons:

  • If too much milk is produced from grass or if grass quality isn’t adequate, cows will lose condition to maintain their predicted milk yield
  • The nutritional value of grass and intakes vary day to day depending on which field cattle are in, how much grass is available and the weather conditions. During a nice spring day, cows will graze for longer periods of time. In contrast, wet, cold weather can reduce intakes and cause the grass dry matter and sugar content to drop. It’s important to note that issues, such as poor fertility and a decline in milk quality due to loss of condition, could arise after prolonged periods of reduced grass intakes.

Feed the correct concentrates and forage

Feeding dairy cows at spring turnout

It’s recommended that concentrates are adjusted as soon as possible once cows are turned out. Spring grass is usually high in Rumen Degradable Protein (RDP) which needs to be balanced with fermentable energy (FME), then topped up with DUP for higher yielding cows. Look for a cake that contains 16 or 14% protein and good DUP content from ingredients such as Carr’s Billington’s own AminoMax rumen-protected proteins.

If spring weather conditions are unusually dry, grass fertiliser uptake may be limited which could result in grass protein levels being lower than expected. In this instance, cows should continue to be fed an 18% protein cake, especially if they’re still getting a lot of silage.

On the other hand, lush spring grass is often very high in sugar and protein but low in fibre which can reduce butterfat levels and cause subclinical acidosis (SARA). To prevent this, add extra fibre into the herd’s diet by continuing to offer silage as a buffer feed and balancing with concentrates that are lower in protein and higher in digestible fibre. Look for feeds that contain our unique TechTonic rumen conditioner to reduce the risk of SARA and improve milk yields and butterfat percentage. Good quality, highly digestible fibre sources include sugar beet pulp, palm kernel and soya hulls and, unless high quantities of silage are being fed, beware of feeding too much wheat or barley.

Feed adequate levels of minerals and vitamins

It’s also important to consider mineral and vitamin levels within concentrate feeds to keep cows healthy.

As cows get closer to turnout Carr’s Billington increase the magnesium levels within the winter dairy cakes to help protect cows against staggers (hypomagnesemia). Once turned out, feed a summer cake that contains an adequate level of magnesium for your production system.

Cows on production systems that are fed very low levels of concentrates could benefit from Carr’s Billington’s MaxGrazer dairy cake once turned out. 2-4kg per day will adequately cover their mineral and vitamin requirements and the high energy content will also help support the fertility of spring calving herds.

TIME4TLC – To Creep Feed Or Not To Creep Feed?

To Creep Feed Or Not To Creep Feed

As every bite is precious, make the most of it by feeding a balanced diet, tailored to high levels of performance and an optimum rumen environment to get lambs away quickly.

Rising prices of feed, fertiliser and energy are putting pressure on margins. As production costs at farm level continue to rise, growing concerns over raw material availability are putting an even greater focus on maximising the use of homegrown resources, especially forage.

Moving lambs as quick as possible will help save on grass in late summer when fertiliser is too expensive to use in some beef and sheep enterprises.

For producers targeting early markets, it is even more important to achieve high levels of performance to ensure lambs can be drafted as soon as possible, freeing up available resources for other stock.

Feed efficiency is highest in the early stages of life and declines with age. As such, it is vital that lambs are fed a diet to maximise early life growth.

Creep feed provides the energy, DUP and starch needed to efficiently increase growth and promote rumen development.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced energy demands on the ewe (especially for triplets, ewe lambs and ewes in poor condition)
  • Increased number of lambs slaughtered pre- weaning
  • Improved kill out % for lambs slaughtered before weaning

It is important to remember that lambs may not eat enough forage and are at risk of sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) and other diseases due to close contact.

Limiting setbacks in performance pre-weaning

  • As can be seen in the figure below, lambs will be consuming 50% of their diet from grass or other hard feed by 6 weeks of age.
  • It is therefore essential to ensure rumen development is optimised to avoid any setbacks post-weaning.
  • This requires very high-quality grass and/or creep feed – maintain swards between 4-8cm to maximise quality.
  • Where high quality grass is short, creep feed can help to fill the gap and maintain early growth from lambs.
  • Feed should be offered from 2-3 weeks of age.
  • Feed conversion (kg feed:kg weight gain) in young lambs is around 3.5:1 vs 7.5:1 post weaning.
  • For a feed priced at £370 this equates to £1.30/kg gain vs £2.78/kg gain for older lambs.
  • Young lambs are still developing their rumen, as a result they cannot fully digest many raw materials, it is essential therefore to select a feed formulated with only quality ingredients.
To creep feed or not to creep feed

Digestion in the rumen

The rumen is a large fermentation chamber packed full of microbes, which:

  • Digest feed to make energy and protein available to the animal
  • Require a low oxygen environment and a pH of 6.0-7.0 to optimise feed digestion

For optimal growth and digestion, the rumen microbes require a balanced source of effective fibre, digestible fibre, starch, sugars, proteins and trace elements

Rumen function

  • In lambs, we aim to promote rumen development early in life to ensure optimal performance later in life…

Choosing a concentrate for creep feeding:

  • 16-17% crude protein as fed
  • <35% cereals (e.g. barley, wheat or oats) using only highly palatable ingredients
  • Quality protein sources (e.g. soya)
  • Digestible fibre source (e.g. sugar beet), keeping fibre levels below 8% as lambs are unable to digest high levels in early life.
  • 5-10% molasses.
  • 2% high calcium/low magnesium minerals to avoid urinary calculi (crystals in urine)

Managing Stress in weaned lambs

Stress is known to suppress the immune system in lambs, and weaning is arguably the most stressful period in the lamb’s life. Additional stressors from a multitude of sources can also compound this problem further.

To creep feed or not to creep feed

Feeding and management of lambs post-weaning

There are several options available when fattening lambs post-weaning, depending on farm resources and time of year (e.g. grass finishing, grass plus concentrates, brassicas / root crops or ad lib concentrate feeding).

Independent of system there are several universal factors to consider:

  • Tailor the diet to lamb type – Lighter lambs require further frame growth and therefore protein. Heavier lambs need more energy and should be fed cereals or other high energy ingredients.
  • Sort by liveweight and bring groups forward in batches to improve efficiency.
  • Spread diet changes over 2-3 weeks to allow the microbes to adapt and reduce the risk of poor rumen function or acidosis.
  • Formulate concentrates to complement the feed and forages available on farm.

Actisaf® in lambs – overall trial results


  • Maximise weight gain when the lamb is most efficient.
  • Make changes to the diet slowly.
  • Management of the lamb around weaning is key.
  • Tailor the diet to the type of lamb and based on the availability of on-farm feeds.
  • Feed Actisaf® live yeast for improved rumen development, rumen function, feed utilisation and daily live weight gain.

Carr’s Billington’s EARLYBITE LAMB PELLETS are a top-quality lamb creep feed containing Actisaf® live yeast to stabilise rumen pH, increase feed conversion ratio, promote fibre digestion and ease transition to concentrate feed.

 EARLYBITE high-energy lamb pellets also offer a balanced source of starch and digestible fibre, and contains EarlyBite® to improve palatability and intakes for faster rumen development and better growth efficiency.

To offer EARLYBITE as a creep feed for lambs up to 12 weeks of age, contact 01228 518860 or speak to your local store or advisor.

Press Release: Plan Dairy Dry Cow Diets To Cope With On-farm Costs

Plan dairy dry cow diets to cope with on-farm costs

Press release: Issued 22 March 2022

Plan dairy dry cow diets to cope with on-farm costs

With rising feed costs, make sure dairy cows achieve ideal body condition earlier in the dry period through correct feeding to optimise cow and calf health and milk yields.

Jimmy Goldie, Carr’s Billington’s chief technical officer explains that the company’s simple, yet effective, dry cow management programme can achieve the right balance of dry matter intake from forage and concentrate to deliver the optimum amount of energy, while also building on reserves of essential micronutrients ready for cow and calf health.

“We also focus on the liver health status during the dry cow period, as this is as important as rumen and gut health.

“The liver is where the first wave of the immune system kicks in, so if we can get the balance right here, we can help to reduce calving inflammation, providing a reservoir for increased and persistent milk production. Liver health is also linked to embryo survivability in the first three weeks after insemination,” he says.

Mr Goldie recommends providing a dry cow feed that increases the level of beneficial amino acids and antioxidants in the liver cells, while supporting fat synthesis and transportation into the milk produced.

“All the ingredients in our new and improved high-performance dry cow feed Transform-Pro™, have been designed to help promote a high-yielding and low-intervention lactation, as well as a vigorous calf,” he adds.

Transform-Pro™ has been carefully formulated by Carr’s Billington’s leading nutritionists and highly digestible undegraded protein (DUP) status from AminoMax™, combined with high starch levels and high fermentable energy. It also exclusively incorporates MecoVit®, which offers a unique combination of rumen-protected microencapsulated nutrients.

“It’s crucial that precise levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D3, bioavailable Zinc, Copper, Safmannan®, selenium yeast, and anionic salts are provided to dry cows to help boost natural defences against metabolic diseases and diseases that new-born calves are most susceptible to,” concludes Mr Goldie.

To find out more about how Carr’s Billington can help optimise transition cow and calf health through their dry cow programme and recommended feeds, call 01228 518860 or visit your local store

Plan dairy dry cow diets to cope with on-farm costs
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Time4Transitioning: Preventing Milk Fever In Dairy Cows

Preventing milk fever in dairy cows

How to prevent milk fever in dairy cows

Clinical milk fever in dairy cows can cost around £200-£300 per case. The disorder can also exacerbate the risk of secondary issues such as ketosis and mastitis[1].

As part of our Time4Tranisitioning series, we have put together a reminder guide on the signs of milk fever, also known as hypocalcaemia, and how to prevent it below:

 [1] Dairy Event 2011: Calculating the cost of milk fever – Farmers Weekly (fwi.co.uk)

What is milk fever?

 Milk fever is a metabolic disorder caused when the blood calcium levels of freshly calved cows drop below the normal range (2.1-2.4mmol/L). This drop is a result of the imbalance between the calcium demand post-calving and what is absorbed from the diet or mobilised by the cow.  

Older cows respond more slowly to the rapid increase in demand for calcium post-calving so are typically more susceptible to milk fever. Those with a higher body condition score are also at greater risk.


Milk fever can either be clinical, determined by cows having less than 1.4mmol/L blood calcium, or subclinical, in which cows have between 1.4 to 2.0mmol/L blood calcium.

Symptoms of subclinical cases can be hard to identify, but the symptoms of clinical cases can be broken down into three grades of severity:

 Symptoms of milder cases of clinical milk fever include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • A drop in milk yield
  • Cold ears and nose
  • Uncoordinated walking

Symptoms of more severe cases of clinical milk fever include:

  • Low body temperature
  • Difficulty standing
  • Sternal recumbency – cows sitting on their brisket with their legs tucked underneath

 Symptoms of the most severe cases of clinical milk fever include:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Lateral recumbency – cows lying on their sides
  • Rumen bloat


Ensuring a correctly balanced diet pre and post calving is the best way to prevent milk fever. Make sure you read our guide on dry cow nutrition and implement the following dietary measures:

  • Limit the amount of calcium pre-calving. Aim for 30g/head/day. If too much calcium is supplied in the diet during the dry period, the mobilisation of calcium from the bones and absorption of calcium from the gut can be impaired post-calving
  • Avoid feeding high potassium forages pre and post-calving, such as good quality grass silage and feed salts that contain chloride. This will help to keep the blood pH level from becoming alkaline which would reduce calcium mobilisation. Aim for potassium levels that are between 1.3-1.5% DM by providing whole crop, maize silage or straw as forage
  • Make sure transition cows receive high levels of magnesium pre and post-calving to help with calcium mobilisation. Aim for 40g/head/day and consider providing a supplementary mineral block or bucket or adding powdered minerals to the TMR if this cannot be achieved by the inclusion of forage
  • Consider bolusing high-risk cows immediately after calving

Don’t forget you can contact your local on-farm specialist if you would like assistance with forage analysis or formulating transition cow diets.

Preventing milk fever in dairy cows


 Although milk fever prevention should be a key priority for dairy farmers, treatment will be required should cows present symptoms.

 Administer calcium via an oral drench, bolus or injection to cows with milder symptoms and monitor them closely. Those showing more severe symptoms will require veterinary attention and intravenous calcium salts.

BETA Feed Fact Fortnight – ReadiGrass


The majority of any horse or pony’s diet should be fibre and the most natural way to provide it is with natural grazing -grass! Other fibre sources are long stem forages such as hay or haylage and short chopped forages such as dried grass, straw and alfalfa (chaff).

When grazing becomes sparse, horses are stabled for long periods, or are travelling and staying away at competitions it can be beneficial to replace the grazing (grass) proportion of their diet with dried grass such as ReadiGrass. Grown, harvested and dried in Yorkshire – absolutely nothing is added. Water is removed gently from the grass in a low temperature drying process retaining the natural flavours, wonderful smell, colour and high nutrient value of fresh grass.

ReadiGrass offers a natural source of nutrients and is rich in digestible fibre essential for healthy gut function. It is suitable for a variety of horses, from those at rest to those in hard work. It can be used as a natural alternative to chaff, a partial hay replacer, and as a treat. ReadiGrass is also ideal for older horses, or those with poor dentition who struggle to chew long stem fibres. With BETA NOPS accreditation ReadiGrass is safe for use during competitions and racing.

BETA Feed Fact Fortnight – HorseHage and Mollichaff

Horsehage & Mollichaff

How much Chaff should I be feeding?

This will depend on your chaff.  If your chaff does not contain any additional vitamin and minerals, we would recommend adding them to ensure a balanced diet.  This can be done in a variety of ways such as including a balancer or a broad spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement.  Some chaffs have vitamins and minerals already added and some can be fed as a complete feed if fed at recommended levels so check your chaff!

For more spring feeding advice head to: https://bit.ly/YourSpringFeedingSolution

To try a free sample from the Mollichaff range head to https://bit.ly/FreeMollichaffSamples

How much haylage should I feed?

As an absolute minimum you should feed the same weight of haylage as you would hay although to ensure that your horse or pony is receiving enough fibre you should look to feed more haylage.  Make sure you are providing a haylage that is nutritionally suitable for your individual horse or pony.

For more spring feeding advice head to: https://bit.ly/YourSpringFeedingSolution

Let’s talk ingredients…

If your horse is prone to laminitis you should ideally look for products that are low in sugar and starch with a combined level of less than 10%.  There are many chaffs available that have been formulated for those prone to laminitis and some contain vitamin and minerals essential for combating deficiencies that may occur as a result of a restricted diet. It is also important to ensure that your haylage is suitable and has low levels of starch and sugar. Look to purchase your haylage from a company that undertakes regular testing.

For more feeding advice request a call back here: https://bit.ly/RequestACallbackHorseHage

To try a free sample from the Mollichaff range head to https://bit.ly/FreeMollichaffSamples