• Simon Stanfield, Trefaes Fach Farm, near Beulah

    Straw-based feed helps solve acidosis challenge in Dyfed herd.

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While silage analyses are much improved this year showing higher dry matters and ME values, farmers have been warned to be on the lookout for an unwanted side-effect – acidosis. Here, Simon Stanfield from Trefaes Fach Farm near Beulah describes how he successfully overcame such an issue last year with a very good quality first cut.

Simon runs the 500-acre farm along with his wife Kim, their son Christopher and Simon’s father Malcolm, milking 310 Holstein Friesians and rearing youngstock, followers and beef store cattle. The herd currently tends towards autumn calving, which fits the milk contract and the way the family focuses its attention on different priorities at different times of year.

“We’re up near 11,500 litre average now at 3.9% butterfat and 3.3% protein on just twice a day milking,” Simon explains. “What works for us is a system that lets us monitor the cows closely and manage them tightly around calving and transition in particular.”

All the Stanfield’s milk goes to Glanbia for mozzarella production, so there’s a seasonality bonus for winter milk. “But a bias towards autumn calving also suits us well. Because we rear our own replacements, we can focus on calving when we have lots of time to get cows safely through the transition period. This leaves the spring and summer quieter so we can turn our attention instead to making good silage.”

And while the silage usually is very good as a result, this, too, can cause issues. “Last winter when we reached first cut silage in the clamp, while it was good quality we found it had an extremely high acid load and significantly lower levels of NDF,” says Simon.

Initially the cows continued to milk well, come bulling and conceive on schedule. Then butterfat levels started dropping – falling to 3.3% at one point; the cows were looking a little listless and hollow, and their manure was becoming less consistent.

cows-8

2 kg less straw (540kg @ £90.00/t) £48.60
100kg less Bicarbonate £35.04
Add 2kg of NIS (540kg @ £130.00/t) -£70.20
Feed benefit per day £13.44
Extra milk (540 litres @ 24ppl) £129.60
Value of extra Butterfat £71.37
Milk benefit per day £214.41
Gross herd benefit per day £200.97

 

NIS is also a great feed to maintain butterfats and reduce the acidity in the rumen in grazing cows. However, in extreme circumstances where forages are particularly low in NDF, it’s still important to include hay or haylage in the diet.

Huw adds that most buffers added to TMR use up the majority of their buffering capacity before getting to the rumen, so are less effective at buffering the most significant source of acidity – the accumulation of lactic acid. “NIS addresses the two most important factors that contribute to SARA – lack of digestible forage fibre and reduced buffering capacity.”

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