As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, come rain or shine, our message remains unchanged – that making the best use of home-produced or locally-sourced feeds is the foundation to profitable, sustainable livestock farming.
Looking back at the season so far, the two things that stand out are the weather extremes and the falling milk price. Whilst we can do nothing to influence the weather, and very little to influence the milk price aside from hitting fat and protein requirements, it’s possible to have a huge influence on both costs of production and margins through making more use of home-grown feeds.
Whilst they come with the obvious benefit of reduced cost when compared with bought-in feed, they also have an environmental impact. This is increasingly rewarded by buyers, through various carbon footprinting schemes, thanks to their obvious environmental benefits, potentially including a substantial reduction in the length of supply chain for both milk and meat.
Weather worries of a drought similar to last year’s after a warm dry June were soon forgotten and July was the wettest on record for many, with some areas seeing over three times their average monthly rainfall. This has not only caused huge short-term problems with forage and cereal crops, but also longer-term damage to land.
We have helped many farmers salvage mouldy or lodged and chitted cereals, and maintain that as long as the crop will go through a combine, with the correct choice of preservative and good management practices, even severely chitted cereals actually keep and feed quite well.
Following worries about waterlogged land, high risk of soil contamination and low dry matter grass silage crops, we are at least hearing back some good news. Certainly, many farmers who were really worried about their silage are finding it is analysing and feeding far better than expected when treated with Safesil Challenge. With a unique blend of human food preservatives, the product has been formulated for exactly these situations, dealing with crops which are low in sugar and overloaded with undesirable bacteria, yeasts and moulds.
Dr George Fisher writes on page 4 about the medium and long-term effects of the recent weather and what can be done to ensure your land is in the best possible condition moving into winter to support next season’s crop.
With forecasters warning that extreme weather conditions are likely to be more common in the future, it may be worth considering other crops such as the green wholecrop, discussed on page 7 of the summer issue.
Moving on towards the winter feeding period, on page 22, Dr Dave Davies provides us with an interesting insight into the history of the NIRS silage analysis system and how to interpret the results. However, he also explains its limitations and when it may be inappropriate for certain feeds. When it comes to rationing, it is so important to know accurately what’s in the clamp and we have increasing numbers of farmers asking for wet chemistry analysis, especially for more unusual crops.
Although this analysis is more expensive than NIRS, the cost is pretty insignificant compared to potential savings which could be made if the quality of forage is under-estimated, leading to unnecessary concentrate use.
At Kelvin Cave Ltd, we are beginning to work on the NCS project, outlined in the summer 2023 issue of KnowHow. And on page 10 of this issue, we introduce some of the other project partners who are most relevant to livestock farmers who grow or locally source proteins as well as explaining the KC involvement and introducing Ian Wilson, our subcontractor for the harvesting efficiency trials. We also include our usual farmer case studies and hope you find these of interest.
If you have or know of an interesting story you would like us to feature in a future issue or can think of any technical topics you would like us to cover then we would be pleased to hear from you. This is your newsletter and we appreciate any feedback, good or bad.