Management Tip – Feed & Forage

Whether it is maximizing production, maintaining herd health, or controlling cost, feeding high quality forage to a herd is a key component. There have been significant technological advances in how producers grow, harvest, and store forages to maximize quality. Even with all the advances in silage management, dairies still struggle to maintain production and health when they open a new bunker or pile.

Farmers can experience a decrease in production and performance when feeding new silage, a phenomenon known as “silage slump”. We wanted to share few ways to avoid silage slump with your DairyBusiness audience.

Watch the first few feet. In many bunkers and corn silage piles, ends tend to be sloped and silage on the front end is not packed as densely, making the fermentation more likely to be compromised allowing the growth of undesirable microbes. As you go deeper into the bunk (five to six feet high), feed is well packed which creates an environment for development of ideal forages.

Blend the forages. When it comes to feeding strategies, consider blending silages to reduce moisture and nutrient variation and to dilute out any potential mycotoxins. From the table below, nutrient profiles can vary in the first few feet of a silage bunker, contributing to “new crop corn silage slump” when switching silage piles. The varying pH levels indicate the fermentation differed as the silage depth increased. To create a more balanced forage, cut across the pile ends and blend the two, four, and eight feet depths.

Add an immunity boost. Finally, work with your nutritionist to incorporate an immune support product in your ration, such as a Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation product (SCFP). In a 2020 commercial dairy field trial an immune support product helped cows transition successfully between silage piles while offsetting some of the negative effects observed from feeding dairy cows new corn silage. Researchers also found total VFA production increased as shown in the table below when using a SCFP product (turquoise) compared to that of the Control (black) treatment.

Provide an ingredient that demonstrates the ability to enhance VFA production, help with transition, and optimize rumen health and immune function.

A healthy rumen can digest feed more efficiently and supply the cow with the appropriate building blocks for glucose production, which drives higher production. Quality forages are a critical component in this process, which can result in healthier cows. Strive to have sound forage management protocols in place and incorporate an immune support product to help with silage transitions. In the end, stronger immunity and greater production can be achieved.

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