Monday, December 10, 2018

Introduce brassica fodder crops slowly this winter, farmers told

December 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Brassica fodder crops should be introduced slowly to livestock rations this winter – helping to ensure appropriate supplementation, says Helen Mathieu of forage experts Germinal.

The advice comes as the company reports a record area of forage brassicas being grown for autumn grazing and out-wintering, as well as unusual seasonal growth patterns that may warrant greater vigilance when feeding this autumn.

“Allowing stock time to adjust to a change in diet is important, as this maximises utilisation of the crop and avoids waste,” said Ms Mathieu. “It is also the best way to avoid any potential digestive problems.”

Nitrate levels

Stock should be introduced steadily to fodder crops under any circumstances, with the recommendation being to start by allowing 1-2 hours access each day – around 10% of the dry matter in the diet – with this building to full access after 10-14 days

Ms Mathieu said: “This is more important this year where many crops have grown very rapidly – kicking on with optimum soil conditions following a period of drought – and may therefore be higher in nitrates than usual.”

Brassicas should ideally represent no more than 70% of the dry matter of the total ruminant diet, with a balance of fibre provided in the form of hay, haylage or straw. The exception is when feeding milking cows, where levels should not exceed 20% of the diet dry matter, to avoid milk taint.

If in any doubt at all, regarding issues such as nitrate levels or milk taint, then the advice is to reduce the access to brassicas and increase the supplementary fibre.

Access to water

“The ideal way to graze brassicas is to move the fence daily, allocating the correct amount for the stock being grazed, with supplementary bales in situ. It’s also important to allow adequate access to water at all times and provide a run-back area for the stock to lie away from the crop.

“Brassicas are low in certain essential minerals, namely iodine, selenium, copper and cobalt, so suitable supplementation will be important. Where grown on sloping fields, the best way to minimise potential problems of soil run-off is to graze downhill.”

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