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!

Weidemann T4512 field work

The Weidemann T4512 made light work of stacking the bales in Annan this week. Despite being a compact telehandler, it has a reach of 4.5m, has a payload capacity of 1200kg, and made light work of shifting the bales.  We were fortunate the ground was firm, but it wouldn’t have mattered to the T4512 because it has AWD and all wheel steering, twinned with a low centre of gravity, this makes it the perfect tool around the farm.

Kuhn RW1610e twin baler in action

We took a host of Kuhn equipment to Burnside Farm, Annan.  The weather was perfect on James Watrets’ farm and the ground firm.  The Kuhn RW1610e Twin is ideal for those wrapping operations where high capacity and high efficiency are required. The RW 1610 is equipped with a high grip film cutter and film roll folder for 2 rolls. The RW 1610 can be operated via the 3-handle cable control, electro-hydraulic joystick or computer control box. The innovative e-Twin technology enables to wrap via a unique combined pre-stretcher design with patented film distribution to save 50% on wrapping time and also on film costs. Unique advantages of e-Twin:
– Pre-stretch ratio can be increased leading towards further film savings.
– Tighter wrapped bales increases the airtightness and so quality of feed.
– Extreme tear resistance in hot circumstances.
– Approx. 80cm height film when arriving at the bale ensures less wrinkling and better positioned film wrap around the bale.

For more information on Kuhn balers & wrappers, contact our machinery depots at Annan, Barnard Castle, Carlisle, Hexham, Morpeth and Penrith.

On board is Epicrop Epic-5 balewrap, available in black, green or purple. This high performance co-extruded 5 layer wrap is ideal for your Kuhn machines.

Watch the birth of bale critters

Bale critters

We have had great fun today in Sunderland, on Lizard Farm, creating the first critters of what we hope will be many this year. All to support the worthwhile cause that is WellChild, yet again we are encouraging farmers to create great displays of purple bales in fields around the UK.

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.

The Cumberland Show – SATURDAY 16TH JUNE 2018 AT EAST PARK, BRISCO

Carrs Billington are proud to be a major sponsor of The Cumberland Show. The Cumberland Agricultural Society has been promoting agriculture and rural life for over 175 years with the main event of the year been the Cumberland Show held in June.

The Show combines tradition and agriculture with a fresh, modern focus to create a real celebration of farming, food and countryside.

There is a range of livestock classes including beef, dairy and sheep; heavy & light horses; poultry classes; and vintage vehicle classes. The Countryside Area displays rural crafts and skills; a Home Industries Marquee; Craft Marquee; Country Living Arcade; Food Hall; a wide range of Trade Stands; and a variety of entertainment around the Showfield, which all make for a great family day out.

New Franchise – Weidemann Telehandlers

Carrs Billington are proud to announce the addition of a new franchise to the machinery division, Weidemann Telehandlers. Weidemann products are synonymous for compact Hoftracs, wheel loaders and telehandlers in the agriculture and the equine industry, forestry and wood industries, municipalities, nurseries, biogas plants as well as various areas in industry and commercial enterprises.Weidemann machinery have great levels of functionality, working comfort, power & endurance, ensuring the right solution for each task. For demonstrations and information contact your local machinery depot. Weidemann machinery have great levels of functionality, working comfort, power & endurance, ensuring the right solution for each task. For demonstrations and information contact your local machinery depot.

Heat Stress in Dairy Cows


Given the record high temperatures recently, it’s no surprise that animals are struggling to cope with the heat as well as ourselves.  Temperatures have been climbing again, and we may still have the hotter conditions in July and August.  Heat stress may be something that will become more common in the UK with hotter summers as a result of global warming.  There is also now a greater proportion of the UK dairy herd being housed all year round in sub-optimal buildings.  Breeding also plays a part with today’s dairy cows being bred for higher production which results in higher metabolic rates that generates more heat.  Cows in the UK are also not acclimatised to high temperatures and humidity as those in hotter countries.

Heat stress affects the metabolic and immune system of dairy cows when the core body temperature is raised above its normal range.  It is the result of high temperatures coupled with high relative humidity.  We can monitor if cows are likely to be at risk by measuring the temperature and relative humidity to get a Temperature Humidity Index (THI).  Heat Stress is believed to occur when a THI of 72 is reached.  This is when cows are unable to dissipate heat quickly enough to keep the core body temperature down.

Visual signs that a cow is suffering from heat stress include; panting, standing for longer periods, sweating, diet sorting and decreased frequency of eating.  These factors then result in depressed feed intakes which in turn means that the cow is not able to consume enough nutrients to meet her energy and protein requirements.  Saliva production is also suppressed, reducing the buffering capacity to lower rumen pH.  In terms of performance, this could result in lower milk yields, poorer display of heat, loss of embryos and a compromised uterine environment.

So how can we tackle heat stress?  This can be split in to two categories – environment & management or nutrition.

Environment & Management

  • provide shade for cows grazing outdoors
  • for housed cows – ensure adequate air flow, either through building modification or installing fans.
  • avoid overcrowding in collecting yards.
  • hosing down individual cows that are in a critical state of distress.



  • Water! Ensure adequate availability and cleanliness.  Cows drink between 10 – 20% more in hot weather.
  • Increase the nutrient density of the diet to compensate for the lower dry matter intakes.  If increasing concentrate inclusion, be careful of acidosis.
  • Reduce the fibre content – digestion of fibre creates more heat than concentrates.  *However, a minimum level of high quality fibre in the diet is still essential.
  • Increase the by-pass protein content of the diet, as rumen function may be impaired.
  • Review the mineral content of the diet.  Cows will lose more minerals when drooling and sweating – sodium in particular.
  • Feeding rumen enhancers, such as Actisaf live yeast, Carrs Billington’s TechTonic, AcidBuf or sodium bicarbonate.  These will all help maintain healthy rumen function.


Lowri Davies
Ruminant Technical Specialist

Grass growth remains below last year

The latest data from Trouw International show that, thanks to recent rainfall, average GB grass growth did increase last week from 46kg DM/ha/day to 53. However, it remains below last year. Within our trading area the range in growth rates is from 62kg in Scotland to 49 in Yorkshire.

The average milk from grass is 12.4 litres, both energy and protein content have lifted as grassland responds to fertiliser washed in by the rain. Typical analysis is 11.8ME, 25% crude protein and 17% dry matter, although as usual there was a wide range and we would recommend contacting your local Carrs Billington nutritionist to take a sample of your grazing paddocks.

Protect your cows from heat stress this Summer


Grass growth falls but potential milk from forage rises.

The average GB grass growth rates, produced by Trouw Nutrition, fell to 59kg DM/ha/day last week. This is 10kg down on the previous week and is below the same time last year. Scotland and North West England saw growth rates of 67/68kg DM/ha/day and Yorkshire 54kg.

On the plus side, high temperatures increased the average dry matter of grass back up to 19%, which will have improved potential intakes. With a typical energy content of 11.8 ME this means, on average, grazing could support M + 14 litres although in many places this potential will have been offset by very high temperatures leading to heat stress in cows and reducing forage intakes.

Reasonable levels of fibre in grass and a low acid loading have reduced the risk of low butterfats but, as above, this will have been offset by potential heat stress.

In the USA and Canada, cows are housed to help protect them from heat stress in summer, the barns are equipped with fans which come on at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) and many have water sprinklers in the feed passages which come on at 72 F (22 degrees C) Last week there will have been many cows in GB grazing outdoors in temperatures of 86 F (30 degrees C). I must emphasise that we are not saying cows should be kept indoors, just that when grazed outdoors in high temperatures, shade and good access to water are very important for cow health and welfare as well as production.