Improving the feed supply – the way to increase animal productivity

Due to construction of new cattle-breeding complexes and import of high-producing cows into Russia from the European Union and America, demand for high quality fodder is increasing. Now, livestock specialists and agronomists are not only concerned with quantities of stored feed, such as corn silage, grass and bean haylage, hay and straw, but are also demanding that the fodder meet Total Metabolizable Energy (TME) and Net Energy for Lactation (NEL) parameters.

By Dr. Villi Drevs, PhD in Agronomy

Metabolizable Energy is what is measured when the goal is to raise young animals and to maintain the health of your livestock. ME is measured in megajoules for each kilogram of solid matter (MJ ME). One kg of grass silage, for example, should contain no less than 10.2 MJ/kg of Metabolizable Energy, while corn silage should have no less than 10.7 MJ/kg.

In order to measure if the fodder will adequate for milk production, the Net Energy for Lactation is measured and expressed in MJ/kg of solid matter (MJ NEL). The Net Energy for Lactation yield in haylage and silage must be no less than 6.1 and 6.4 MJ/kg, respectively.

What kinds of mistakes are possible and what factors have an effct on the fodder's quality indicators?

First of all this has to do with the time for grass cutting. Due to the effort to produce as much as possible and also due to organizational reasons, many farms are late in beginning their fodder collection. Grasses are the most valuable as feed during their ear formation phase, before flowering. For meadow fescue or orchard grass this period only lasts about 6 to 11 days. If these grasses are collected after this period, this leads to a drastic reduction in Net Energy for Lactation from 6.5 to 5.5 MJ/kg during the flowering stage, and to 5.0 MJ after the flowering stage. In addition to this, the feed's digestibility decreases and the percent of crude cellulose increases. An analysis performed by the Hannover Chamber of Agriculture (Germany) shows that milk yield is 13.4 liters per day from feedstuffs that are collected in time, while for those that are cut down very late the milk yield is only 1.4 liters.

Unfortunately, many farms still allow a lot of space for awnless brome, which gets only 5 points for dietary value, and is thus similar only to an invasive weed, called couch grass. It is at a disadvantage when compared to valuable feedstock grasses.

In order to increase field productivity and feed quality, one of the most important factors to consider is competent grass mixture composition in accordance with weather conditions (dry or moist conditions) and conditions of use (haylage, hay, or pasture). Grass mixes posses the following advantages:

— High metabolic energy and net energy for lactation.

— Combining several types of grass that develop at different rates allows for two to three cuttings.

— Providing livestock with well-balanced feedstuffs during the entire pasture period.

— Good winter resistance and early sprouting.

— Ability to compete with weeds in agrophytocenosis.