CAFRE’s Nigel Gould discusses silage quality, feeding concentrates, and suckler cows’ BCS in this article.
Farmers should analyse silage to determine the quality and use this information to develop a feed plan for the different classes of stock on the farm, writes Nigel Gould.
For example, target the best quality silage towards weanlings and ewes pre-lambing.
Use poorer quality first and target it towards dry spring calving cows at this time of year.
With the high cost of concentrate feeds this year, quality silage is more important than ever.
Due to the high cost of concentrates, you may be tempted to reduce the amount fed or feed none this winter.
However, you need to think very carefully about this for each class of stock.
Average to poor quality silage will not facilitate this on most farms. Also, remember to keep better quality silage for ewes pre-lambing on a mixed cattle and sheep farm.
Even where its quality is excellent, in-lamb ewes will require some concentrates in the final six weeks pre-lambing.
Inadequate nutrition in the final stages of pregnancy will likely result in higher losses at lambing.
Furthermore, autumn-calving cows also have a high nutritional demand. They usually require some level of concentrates, at least until they are back in-calf.
Body condition scoring of suckler cows
Farmers should assess cow body condition score (BCS) post-weaning and group cows accordingly.
BCS is scored on a scale of one to five, with one being emaciated and five obese.
One BCS in a suckler cow equates to approximately 70-90 kg of live weight. The ideal BCS for spring-calving suckler cows is 3.0 at weaning and 2.5 at calving and mating.
You should offer very thin cows unrestricted access to moderate to good quality silage.
Also, you could offer cows in good body condition a restricted allocation to either reduce or maintain body condition score by calving time.
Unless it is of poor quality, allowing unrestricted access results in cows laying down more condition. Farmers should note that this may increase the incidence of calving difficulty. This, in turn, may negatively affect subsequent fertility and calving interval.
Read more farming tips from CAFRE.