FARMERS in Northumberland have been discovering the potential benefits of alternative winter feed rations during an open day at Swarland Old Hall Farm.
The event, held near Felton, was hosted by the Proctor family and organised by diet feed manufacturer Keenan on the back of concerns that severe US drought conditions and wet UK weather is likely to cause increasing diet concerns over the winter.
Farmers are facing spiralling feed costs, especially for imported protein. Keenan nutritionist Seth Wareing says they should look at various alternatives such as co-products from the biofuels industry.
He said: “Recent research from the University of Illinois, using the US equivalent to Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS) has shown biofuel co-products can reduce reliance on expensive imported protein such as soya bean meal, rape meal, sunflower meal and gluten.
“Traditionally, distillers grains have been included at a rate of 10% in order to dispel concerns over potential loss in milk yield and milk fat reduction in dairy cows.
“The US trials involved feeding DDGS to dairy cows at a rate of 10%, 20% and 30%. The research indicated 20% inclusion, using a Keenan feeder, can be incorporated into the diet and can increase the amount of energy corrected milk per kg of dry-matter consumed by as much as 16%.
“At a 20% inclusion rate, there is a feed cost saving of 56p per cow per day. With the addition of potential increased milk income this equates to an additional 80p per cow per day. The trial indicated there was no benefit including distillers at 30% inclusion rate.”
The trial used two different types of diet feed mixers – a Keenan Mech-Fibre, incorporating the PACE system and the various protocols for including feeds and recommended mixing, and a vertical mixer with advanced weigh system, using its protocols.
According to Illinois researchers, the PACE system produced a better diet mix and delivered increasing nutritional benefits.
US trials were also conducted on beef cattle, mainly Red Herefords, and clearly demonstrated the importance of feeding a properly mixed ration. This included a shorter forage length delivered by the incorporate cutting mechanism of a Mech-Fibre, according to Mr Wareing.
“Shorter length fibre, with a sharp edge, is beneficial to rumen function,” he said.
“A properly mixed diet, incorporating 20% biofuel co-products was fed to different groups of beef cattle. The Mech-Fibre fed group came to feed more often than the other groups of cattle, which were fed on an identical ration.
“On average, over a 24-hour period, cattle fed through a Mech-Fibre wagon came forward to the feed trough on 11.5 occasions per cow, compared to 9.5 times for other groups.
“The Mech-Fibre group also ate for less time, on average 820 seconds per visit, compared to 910 second for other animals. The feed efficiency was better, as was carcass quality.”
Keenan Northern area manager Michael French advised that beef and dairy farmers’ feed protein prices are likely to remain high over the winter and margins will be under-pressure.
He said: “Farmers should look at bio-fuel co-products as a seriously alternative. Keenan will work alongside farmers, their feed manufacturers and nutritionists in order to provide support and advice whenever required.
“The recent US trials have provided independent data as to how farmers are able to achieve the best possible results from incorporating DDSGs into beef and dairy herd diets.
“It’s not a case of merely reducing costs, it’s about providing beneficial increases through properly conducted independent research, correct diet mixing and feeding.”
Bio-fuel co-products can reduce reliance on expensive imported protein such as soya bean meal, rape meal, sunflower meal and gluten