New research shows that replacing a proportion of grass silage in buffer feed with straw and a molasses blend could help preserve forage stocks cost effectively in the coming winter, advises ED&F Man.

“Dairy and beef farmers will need to strike a balance between adequate buffer feeding to maintain summer production and the need to preserve sufficient forage to help reduce winter purchased feed demands,” comments Georgina Chapman, technical support manager at ED&F Man. “Our trials with dairy cows confirm it can be efficient to preserve silage stocks and feed an alternative.”

The company carried out research at the Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre with Agri-EPI’s operational partners, Kingshay Dairy Consultants. The work showed that including a proportion of straw and Regumix, a palatable high energy and protein molasses based liquid feed, in the buffer feed for dairy cows allowed production to be maintained while preserving silage stocks.

“Over a six-week period there was no difference in yield between cows fed the initial buffer and those where straw and Regumix was included,” Ms Chapman continues. “The cows on the molasses buffer milked as well as cows on the traditional buffer but with slightly better compositional quality. There was no difference in body condition changes between the two groups.

“There was a saving of 7.5kg of silage per cow per day. Assuming 200 cows were fed the new buffer for a typical 18-week period, the total silage saved over this time would be a potential 200 tonnes. This would then be available to increase the silage fed per cow per day over the winter-feeding period, or ensure stocks are sufficient for a longer housed period.”