Time4Calving: Our Guide To Calf Milk Replacers

calf milk replacer

To reach the optimal serving weight by 13 – 14 months old, with the aim to calve down at 24 months, heifer calves must be growing at 0.85kg/day from birth to first service.
Our expert calf and youngstock team are able to offer on-farm advice on feeds and nutrition to help dairy youngstock reach these targets. However, they have also compiled a few top tips on what to consider when it comes to feeding milk replacers for your own reference:

Quantity

Calves should be fed 15–20% of their body weight each day in whole milk or a suitable milk replacer to reach the targeted 0.85kg/day growth rate.

During cold weather, the volume of milk replacer fed should be increased to reflect the fact that calves will be using more energy to keep warm.

If temperatures fall below 200C, for every 10ºC drop, an extra 100g milk powder/day should be fed to a 50kg calf (0-3 weeks of age). So at 0ºC, feed an extra 200g per day. This should be achieved through increasing the volume of milk fed, rather than the concentration. Increasing the concentration will affect osmolality levels and can increase the risk of nutritional scour.

For calves older than three weeks, if temperatures fall below 100C, feed an extra 100g milk powder/day for every 10ºC drop. So at 0ºC, feed an extra 100g per day. This should also be achieved through increasing the volume of milk fed, rather than the concentration.

Schedule

It is important to keep calves on the same milk replacer until weaning as this will avoid upset to their digestive systems, which could result in nutritional scours.

fed at consistent times every day to help the abomasum break down the milk efficiently and prevent digestive issues, such as bloat.

Temperature

Milk replacer should be fed at a temperature of 37 – 39 ºC, as this is within the range of a calf’s body temperature.  This is particularly important during cold weather conditions to avoid lowering the calf’s internal body temperature. For tips on how to correctly mix milk replacer, watch our handy guide below:

Nutritional content

Dairy heifers will require a powder containing at least 22% protein to meet their nutritional requirements. However, some higher protein products, if they are of good quality, will encourage more stature and lean muscle development.

Most milk replacers contain a mixture of dairy and vegetable protein and the quality of the protein and how it has been processed is important. Look for hydrolysed wheat protein as the vegetable protein as it will provide a digestible alternative to dairy protein.

Pea protein, soya protein, wheat protein and wheat flour are typically harder for youngstock to digest and are therefore less available to the young calf. Soya protein concentrate is sometimes used in more economic milk replacers, but its digestibility is much lower than that of hydrolysed wheat.

Additionally, aim to feed a replacer with no less than 20% fat. Calves require energy to keep warm, to fight off infection, to move, and to grow. Calves are not at risk of becoming over fat during the milk feeding period, so the higher the fat content, the better. Fat also provides energy for protein utilisation and therefore encourages higher rates of growth.

Whey or skim?

Whey and skim milk replacers are digested differently by calves. Once skim milk reaches the abomasum, it produces an energy dense casein (an insoluble milk protein) clot that takes between eight to twelve hours to be fully digested. For this reason, calves on a skim-based milk replacer will appear fuller for longer than calves fed with a whey-based milk replacer.

Whey powders contain the whey fraction (a soluble milk protein) of milk which does not need to be clotted to be broken down, so goes straight to the small intestine for digestion. Whey-based milk replacers are therefore digested much faster, typically within two to three hours.

There are no advantages of choosing one type of milk replacer over the other, so long as the quality and digestibility of the raw materials is high. Make sure you speak to your local calf and youngstock specialist to find a replacer to best suit your system.

Provide straw, starter feed and water

Starter feed, straw and water should be provided from birth.

Although they won’t eat large amounts in the first few weeks, allowing access to starter feed will help with rumen development. At birth, a calf’s digestive system has the same four compartments to an adult cow, but only one compartment is fully functioning – the abomasum.

The rumen is under-developed at this stage, but this is the compartment that will become the powerhouse of the calf after weaning. It is therefore essential to encourage rumen development as quickly as possible whilst the calves are on milk.

We do this by providing starter feed rich in starch, which will produce important volatile fatty acids that stimulate growth of the rumen wall, and papillae development on the internal lining.

Equipment hygiene

Feeding equipment should be cleaned and disinfected after each feed to reduce the incidence of disease. If you want to know more about on-farm biosecurity and hygiene, read our calf management blog here.

Time4Calving: Our Guide To Calf Colostrum Management

calk colostrum management

All famers know that feeding colostrum in the first few hours of life is crucial to ensuring a calf’s immune system is as strong as possible. Colostrum promotes intestinal maturation, and the antibodies and nutrients it contains reduces the likelihood of disease, such as scours or pneumonia. However, when rearing calves, it is crucial the ‘four Q’s’ are considered, as failing to do so will negatively impact calf health.
The Carr’s Billington calf and youngstock team have provided some top tips to remember when applying the four Q’s.

The four Q’s

Quality and Quantity

If colostrum is being taken from the dam, it should be done so within the first two hours after birth. The longer it is kept in the udder, the greater the risk of the quality declining, as the cow will start to re-absorb the antibodies and nutrients.

Remember:

  • If colostrum is taken from the dam, ensure she hasn’t tested positive for Johne’s disease
  • Do not pool raw colostrum from different cows as this lowers the overall quality and increases the risk of disease
  • The dam’s body score condition at calving and her pre-calving diet will have an impact on her colostrum quality. 

If feeding a powdered colostrum, our experts recommend feeding a 100% dried bovine colostrum rather than a supplement type colostrum. This will mean that you can be sure calves receive all the vital nutrients and antibodies they require, whilst promoting absorbability. New-born calves need to consume 200g of antibodies within their first feed to ensure they have the best chance of obtaining passive immunity.

Colostrum quality will vary between cows, so it is recommended the colostrum is tested using a refractometer. When using a Brix refractometer, a reading of 22% is the target, as this equates to 50g of antibodies per litre.

Calves should receive 4 litres, or 10% of their body weight, in their first feed. Jersey cow colostrum is typically higher in quality compared to Holsteins, so jersey calves may only require a 3L feed to receive 200g of antibodies.

Calves should be fed another similar sized colostrum feed within 12 hours of birth.

Antibody level testing

Testing your calves’ blood for the antibody levels (IgG) or Total Protein (TP) will help identify any potential issues with colostrum management. You can ask your vet to test calves between 24 hours and 7 days old. The aim is for 80% or more of the calves tested to indicate a ‘good’ level of IgG and TP.

GOOD= >12 IgG g/L, >55 TP g/L

MODERATE= 10-12 IgG g/L, 50-55 TP g/L

POOR= <10 IgG g/L, <50 TP g/L

Quickly

To ensure calves have the healthiest immune system possible, they should be fed within the first two hours of birth. Once the calf is born, its ability to absorb antibodies will start to decline, so time really is of the essence.  

If the calf has been taken from the dam, colostrum can be administered by a nipple bottle but remember, if calves aren’t sucking the recommended volume of colostrum, a stomach tube should be used.

Top tip: To reduce the risk of disease in new-born calves, the calving box needs to be as sterile as possible. As soon as the calf has been licked clean by the dam, it should be moved into its own clean pen and fed colostrum there.

calf feeding from bottle

Quietly

Colostrum should be given quietly as this will minimise calf stress and maximise antibody absorption.

Collecting and storing colostrum

Any colostrum collected from the dam should be done so with clean hands or gloves and put into a clean container with a lid.

If colostrum becomes contaminated, a calf’s uptake of antibodies will decline, leaving them more susceptible to diseases such as septicaemia or diarrhoea. Bacteria within colostrum will double every 20 minutes if left at room temperature after collecting, so it should be covered and, if it’s not fed straight away, stored in a fridge or freezer.

Make sure the fridge is set to 4°C and use the colostrum within 72 hours or set the freezer to between -18 to -20°C and use within six months.

Labelling the containers with the date of collection and cow’s number will enable the identification of potential sources of disease outbreaks. It will also mean colostrum that has been stored for longer than the recommended period isn’t used, as it’s quality will have deteriorated.

Top tip for reheating colostrum: Do not use a microwave or hot water to defrost colostrum as this will destroy the antibodies within it. Allow it to defrost at room temperature and then warm in a water bath no hotter than 40ᵒC.

On-farm protocols

Make sure all staff follow the same on-farm calf management protocols which should include best colostrum feeding practices. This will help to ensure any issues with colostrum quality or calf health that are linked to colostrum management can be identified and resolved.

All feeding equipment should also be thoroughly cleaned after each use to prevent bacterial build up and the risk of passing on disease to calves. Read more about on-farm biosecurity and hygiene in our calf management blog.

Time4Formulating: Autumn Dairy Cow Diets

Autumn Dairy cow Diets

You’ll likely already know that balancing nutritional intakes of a dairy herd, while maintaining health and yields, is a priority for all farmers during the autumn.

As cows settle on to winter rations, diet changes need to be gentle and gradual to avoid impacting on rumen stability, health and performance. A gradual change will also have a positive impact on the digestive utilisation of vital homegrown forages, helping keep on top of bought-in feed quantities.

To help you successfully transition into autumn/winter, our experts are here with their practical top tips:

Assess silage stocks

Brought-in feed is the most expensive aspect of milk production (up to 40% of total costs) so maximising the use of home-grown bulk fodder is often the lowest cost option for housed cows. However, it’s important to analyse the quality of this forage on a regular basis to optimise nutrient utilisation and rumen function, and to balance winter feed plans as there can be significant variation as you work back through each cut/clamp.

As a rough guide a 650kg Holstein cow in milk will eat around 20 – 24kg dry matter per day.  Of this around 50% should be forage. The dry matter of the silage will determine how much fresh weight of silage they will eat in a day. This season we have seen a wide range of dry matter in grass silage, from below 20% to over 50%. 

Once the quality of forage is determined using the analysis results, shortfalls in nutritional requirements can be balanced using custom blends or compounds, that suit your farm system and milk contract, and adapted over time as forage quality and fermentation characteristics change.

Additionally, the best or poorest quality forage can be allocated to different cows within the herd, depending on their needs. For example, far off dry cows will need to be fed a maintenance diet that provides minimal but adequate energy. This means they can be fed more mature forages that have a low digestibility value.

Silage quantities should also be assessed to ensure calculations can be made as to how far it will stretch over the housing period to help determine whether forage replacers need to be purchased. 

feed

Consider buffers and yeasts

It takes the microflora in the rumen three weeks to adjust to ration changes, meaning digestion won’t be as efficient as it should be during this time.

Instability in the rumen environment and microbial population can also reduce feed intakes, leading to a decline in performance and butterfat levels.

It’s therefore worth considering incorporating a yeast or rumen conditioner such as TechTonic™ into the ration during this nutritional transition period.

Both will help support rumen function and stability, prevent issues such as subacute ruminal acidosis (SARA), and support better feed conversion efficiency (FCR).

  • Yeasts improve the conditions in the rumen by stimulating the growth and activity of forage digesting bacteria
  • Rumen buffers help to re-establish rumen pH within the ideal range of 5.8-6.2
vitalyx

Support immunity

Sufficient levels of minerals and vitamins in the right balance need to be fed for performance and immunity.

If you choose to use supplementary products, such as licks, blocks or powders when formulating feed rations, it’s important to choose those that have been created to industry standards and comply with Maximum Permitted Levels. This will reduce the risk of excess intakes which in turn can cause health issues.

For example, high intakes of copper can cause chronic copper toxicity leading to a significant reduction in milk production or death. Don’t kill with kindness!

For more information on managing diet changes as cattle are housed, contact your local on-farm specialist or dairy nutritionist.

New Complete Nutritional Supplement Range

vita range launch

Farmers set to benefit from launch of new complete nutritional supplement range

In a bid to help support farming livelihoods more sustainably, We at Carr’s Billington has developed our own-brand range of premium quality nutritional supplements.

Founded on the need for a more simple and effective means of ensuring animals have what they need when they need it, the complete range of feedblocks, powdered minerals, and mineral and feed buckets have been specially designed to help address the wide range of production challenges faced by beef, sheep, and dairy farmers at different times of the year.

Chrissie Smith, mineral and feed supplements product manager here at Carr’s Billington, says the new Vitamix, Vitalyx and Vitablox ranges are testament to the company’s team and their longstanding relationships with farmers.

“The technical team have worked closely with farmers to develop a solution based range, bringing together the latest proven technology, capable of further supporting livestock growth, production and reproductive performance,” she explains.

“We’ve also taken a positive leap forward in terms of sustainability with this new range, manufacturing the products nearby using high quality ingredients that are sourced locally wherever possible.”

These nutritional supplements are intended for supplementing grazing, silages and home-grown feeds, making better use of what’s grown on farm whilst balancing forage deficiencies.

“Farmers have the option of choosing between three ranges which are most appropriate for their systems, livestock, and business goals”.

vitalyx

The Vitalyx mineral and feed bucket range

Can be offered to livestock as fed free access, providing a continuous nutrient supply 24/7 on a little and often basis, which is a cost-effective and time-efficient means of supplementation.

The Vitamix powdered mineral range

Is also available as free-access or in-feed, helping to ensure all key micronutrients are supplied at the correct levels to maximise stock performance. We’re also pleased to announce this has been packaged using at least 30% reclaimed plastic.”

vitamix

Finally, Chrissie explains

vitablox

The Vitablox feedblock range

Is packed with key nutrients including Sulphur, B vitamins, chelated zinc, and organic selenium. This also contains locally sourced Scottish distillers’ dark grains as well as Carr’s Billington’s own rumen by-pass protein, AminoMax-M™ incorporating British rape.

“Fundamentally, our new complete and yet streamlined range of products have been developed to help fulfil livestock nutrient requirements during vital periods within the farming calendar, such as tupping time and autumn calving time.

“As a business, we also want to help our customers continue to achieve their goals while also working towards a more sustainable future. Providing products from sources they can trust is a critical part of this,” she concludes.

Reduce the Risk of Staggers this Spring

Grass staggers, tetany, hypomagnesaemia, call it what you like but spring magnesium deficiency in ruminants can be both fatal and expensive.

Although it seems that the snow has barely melted, grass will soon start to grow, when stock are turned out the issue of staggers will need to be managed.

The problem

Fast-growing spring pasture is low in magnesium, highly digestible and high in moisture. This, together with less supplementary feed used at grass means that magnesium intake is reduced. To make matters worse, magnesium absorption in the animal’s gut can be compromised by high fertiliser use, particularly when potassium is added to the pasture. If the challenge of low magnesium supply is not enough, stress can also reduce blood magnesium levels making a dangerous situation critical.

The problem of staggers is mainly seen in but not confined to lactating livestock during the spring grazing period with the risk period lasting anywhere between three and ten weeks. Animals do not store magnesium in the body and clinical hypomagnesaemia will occur when the losses of magnesium through the milk exceed the dietary intake allowing blood levels to fall below a critical level. Classic symptoms of nervousness, twitching, stiffness, staggering and collapse can follow although many cows showing no signs of the deficiency will have reduced milk yield.

What can be done?

One remedy would be to be extra-vigilant by constantly monitoring livestock for the onset of hypomagnesaemia and to administer subcutaneous magnesium sulphate injection at the first signs. Needless to say this is not a practical approach, nor would it prevent reoccurrence so methods of prevention should be used as part of the dietary management of herd or flock in the spring months. The options available to provide supplementary magnesium include boluses or alternatively by feeding a high level to livestock in the form of a dietetic feed. This can be in a number of forms including cobs, high magnesium cake, liquid feeds and mineral feeding stuffs. It should be stressed that none of these methods are a guarantee on their own and to further reduced the risk, should be fed in conjunction with readily available energy and a source of long fibre.

Megalix Quattro Mag

One popular way of feeding supplemental magnesium is via a palatable molassed mineral lick such as Megalix Quattro Mag. With four sources of magnesium including AGMA calcined magnesite, Megalix Quattro Mag ticks the boxes for free choice feeding in the spring grazing period. With two slow releasing sources of magnesium and two quick releasing sources, Megalix Quattro Mag gives livestock both immediate and sustained protection against staggers.

AGMA calcined magnesite is regarded by many as the best magnesite on the market, with independent research at Glasgow University Veterinary School confirming that AGMA has superior bioavailability of magnesium, highest rumen solubility and the most consistent product quality.

Megalix Quattro Mag is available in 20kg and 80kg tubs and provides livestock with 24 hour protection against staggers.

Vitality Premium Colostrum

The importance of feeding a new-born calf sufficient levels of good quality colostrum is well recognised within the dairy industry. A calf is born with minimal immunity and relies on immunoglobulins absorbed from colostrum for passive protection from disease until active immunity develops.  Directly after birth a calf is challenged by all sorts of pathogens in the calving pen, calf pens and feeding equipment. The gut is permeable after birth for the immunoglobulins to enter the blood system, permeability reduces rapidly over time, so it’s important to feed colostrum as soon after birth as possible.

Maternal colostrum is the first milk after calving, which steadily declines in nutrient density over time becoming transition milk until its whole saleable milk. Colostrum consists of immunoglobulins (mainly IgG), lactoferrin, growth factors, insulin, hormones and leucocytes, which all play a vital role in calf health.

It is important to test maternal colostrum for quality, if you do not test colostrum you cannot monitor and manage health and future production. Calves need 10% of their body weight of colostrum measured at 22% or over on a Brix refractometer. Faber et al., 2005 found that calves fed four litres in the first few hours after birth averaged 0.23Kg DLWG more when compared to calves that received two litres of colostrum. This resulted in a combined production increase of 1,027 litres in the first and second lactation and 11.4% more heifers surviving to the second location. Furthermore, the veterinary and medicine costs were lower in the group of calves fed the higher level of colostrum.

Colostrum replacers are the best option behind tested maternal colostrum and tested frozen colostrum. Most colostrum’s on the market are intended to supplement maternal colostrum when quality is poor and not to act as a complete colostrum replacer. It must be stressed that it is important to have a discussion with your nutritionist or vet when buying a replacer.

Carrs Billington have recently launched a new natural bovine colostrum replacer, ‘Vitality Premium Colostrum’. This replacer is 100% dried colostrum nothing added in and nothing taken away. Immunoglobulins make up 70–80% of the total protein in maternal colostrum. As this new product is natural bovine colostrum with 100% dairy protein, there are enough levels of immunoglobins to provide full colostrum replacement in the absence of maternal colostrum. Calves are born with minimal fat reserves that can only support the calf for approximately 5 hours. Carrs Vitality Premium Colostrum contains 23% fat levels to provide calves the energy to keep warm and thrive in the vital first few hours of neo-natal life. The fat inclusion in this product is essential as fat also acts as a carrier for the extras such as growth hormones, which traditional colostrum supplements do not contain. Carrs Vitality Premium Colostrum is EBL, IBR, Johne’s and TbB free.

To find out more about Vitality Premium Colostrum, download the PDF here.

Molasses Blends – The Essential Ingredient – Sheep

ED&F MAN know the science behind molasses; they’ve used it to create pioneering animal feeds and industrial products for over 80 years. They blend feeds with proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to create the perfect product for farmers’ needs.

Benefits include:

  • Sugar content boosts rumen function
  • Highly palatable, drives dry matter intake
  • Improves fibre digestion
  • Low substitution allows access feeding, reduces stress
  • Reduces risk of ‘Twin Lamb’ disease
  • Wide range of lick feeders and storage options available

For more information contact our Customer Service Team on: 01228 518860

Molasses Blends – The Essential Ingredient – Cattle

Unlock the full value of home-grown forage and cereal with ED&F MAN Liquid Feeds. ED&F MAN know the science behind molasses; they’ve used it to create pioneering animal feeds and industrial products for over 80 years. They blend feeds with proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to create the perfect product for farmers’ needs.

Their molasses blends can be used to:

  • Add sugar to balance starch and reduce the risk of SARA
  • Drive dry matter intake
  • De-dust and eliminate ration sorting

For more information contact our Customer Service Team on: 01228 518860

Molasses in the summer? – Buffer feed options.

As the dry weather continues and forage supplies remain tight – it would be worthwhile for farmers too seriously consider Carrs’ liquid feed range.

It’s critical that rumen efficiency is maintained, especially when forages are dry, or in short supply and grazing swards are not yielding as much as they should be. Ensuring sufficient sugar levels within the diet will help the rumen microbes break down all feeds within the rumen. Typically grazed grass will only contain 4% sugar and the optimum for dairy cows is between 5% to 7% depending on stage of lactation.

It’s important to fill the sugar gap, and that the correct form of sugar is provided. Six carbon sugars such as sucrose and glucose, found in feeds like molasses, sugar beet pulp, and good quality grazed grass are proven to be more beneficial to dairy cows than the five carbon sugars found in distillery products and wheat syrup
Buffer feeding with a ration designed to meet the cow’s various energy and protein demands will allow better production to be maintained through the summer even when grazing is poor. By definition, a buffer feed should fill the gap between the cow’s requirements and the variable supply of nutrients from grazing. It must be palatable and include starch, sugar, fibre and a balanced protein supply. Simply making grass silage available, can reduce grazing intakes and will not deliver what the cow requires. Sorting can be a problem when buffer feeding with cows selecting the more palatable ingredients and avoiding less palatable dry feeds such as straw and dry fibrous silage. Including a source of six carbon sugar, such as a molasses blend will ensure that the sugar gap is satisfied, improve rumen effectiveness and stimulate the digestion of the whole buffer feed

Feeding Carrs Stimolator will ensure that the sugar gap is satisfied, combining 30% sugars to stimulate fermentation and better rumen health and 18% protein allowing the rumen to breakdown more fibrous forages and whole crop. Stimolator has been shown to improve intakes, reduce sorting and enhance performance. The option of adding Fresh-Guard to all bulk molasses blends can be used to reduce rations heating in the trough and preserve the quality of the TMR leading to better performance and less wasted feed. You thought molasses blends were a winter feed………think again!

Optimising Forage Quality

Last spring, five farmers from the North of England and South West Scotland volunteered to participate in a study of how the nutritive value of grass intended for cutting as silage changed during the spring. Here are the results of the study designed and managed by Trouw Nutrition and Carrs Billington. Article as featured in British Dairying in March.

Samples of grass were taken from the same field each week in the six weeks before cutting and a full nutrient analysis obtained. The final analyses were performed the day before cutting and compared with the first cut analyses when the clamps were opened up. The nutrients analysed for were dry matter, protein, sugar and NDF (fibre).
Graph 1 shows how the national average pre-cut samples analysed by Trouw Nutrition changed over time during the summer of 2017.

DM weather dependent

Dry matter is heavily dependent on the weather—although there is good evidence that using a fertiliser containing sodium can improve forage dry matter content where the soil is deficient, which many are. The fall in dry matter does coincide with the end of a prolonged dry spring and the onset of wetter weather in the North of England and Scotland. Protein content remained fairly steady, while sugar levels slowly declined as spring turned into summer.
It is the NDF content which showed the most significant changes, rapidly increasing from 35% to 42% in the two weeks between mid-May and early June. This change in fibre level would equate to a 1.2 MJ/kg dry matter loss in the metabolisable energy content of silage produced.
Every year is different. Graph 2 shows that the average increase in NDF content occurred two weeks later in 2017 than it did in 2016. The two main points to take from this are:
1: Analyse grass on a regular basis one month before you usually cut—not the day before cutting.

2: Be prepared. If the weather is right and the grass analysis is good be ready to go—do not wait as many did this year particularly waiting far too long to cut 2nd cut. The grass grew much faster after 1st cut than most realised.

Big range in cutting dates

Table 1 shows the pre-cut and final silage analyses for each of the five farms and an average of them all. The first thing of interest is the wide range in cutting dates between the first farm and last farm to cut—four weeks in total. The earliest cutting date was on April 23rd and the last on May 18th, yet all farms produced very high quality silage.


What was common however is that all five farms cut their grass for 1st cut relatively young and close to 38 % NDF—it was not just luck that all the silages made from this young low fibre grass had an ME greater than 11.3 MJ/kg DM. Another interesting factor to point out is the loss of nutrients that occurs between cutting grass and opening it later as silage. This is a normal part of the fermentation process but not always appreciated
On average, for these five farms, there was a 0.5MJ/kg drop in ME and 3.5% loss of crude protein. Clamp management was excellent
on all five farms and had there been excessive application of nitrogen too close to cutting, poor clamp management or cutting corners with respect to sheeting these losses would have been much higher.

Protein loss

Interestingly the two silages with a dry matter content below 30% lost significantly more protein between field and clamp, nearly 6% of protein being lost possibly as effluent both in the field and clamp.
Dynamic Energy averaged 6.5 MJ/kg in the first cuts—which is excellent. This is part of the new Nutri-Opt dairy rationing system, developed by Trouw and adopted by Carrs Billington this winter. It measures the amount of energy in a feed which the cow can use for milk production—a good target figure is 6.0 and above. Many forages, particularly second cuts in the North, had quite good energy levels when measured on an ME basis but failed to generate the expected milk yields.
It was common this year for these to have a Dynamic Energy below 6.0 and so this parameter is proving to be an increasingly useful predictor of cow performance. What is the ideal target NDF value of grass for it to be cut for silage? If one is aiming to achieve 70+ D value silage then aim to cut between 38% to 40% NDF. Cutting higher than 40% NDF will result in lower energy silage but cutting at much less than 38% NDF, especially if wilting has proved to be difficult, could increase the risk of silage slippage and a butyric fermentation if too much fertiliser nitrogen was still in the plant at cutting.
Finally, some comfort for those in a saturated North, where winter temperatures have been close to normal with periods of low and freezing weather.

Trouw Nutrition have started looking to see if there is a relationship between winter temperature and average silage quality the following year—particularly first cut after a mild or cold winter—and there does seem to be. Silage digestibility seems to be better after a cold rather than a mild winter perhaps because the grass has already started growing and should be cut sooner at an earlier date after a mild winter rather than at the same date every year. Analysis shows that pre-cut grass analysis has been available as a service to our customers for years but often we are asked to take one sample very close to the intended cutting date to assess if it is safe to cut from a silage fermentation perspective. For this we look at the dry matter, sugar, protein and Nitrate N content to make the call as to whether to delay cutting or not and to decide on the most appropriate silage additive. We are however overlooking a simple but important guide as to when to cut from an overall digestibility perspective—that being the NDF content of the grass. We are now suggesting grass samples are taken one month ahead of the intended cutting date and then two weeks later to help decide if this is a year, on your farm, to cut sooner or later than originally planned.