Focus on how to obtain the best from forage to counteract rising feed costs
Published 12/04/2011 | 05:00
The current and the projected future high feed prices are making it very difficult to project profitability in winter finishing for the coming winter.
High feed costs are tightening margins so farmers need to focus on how to get the best out of the forage grown on their own land and also on any feed they may purchase.
The value of maize silage in beef finishing rations is well recognised. Maize is the simplest and most cost-effective crop grown on most livestock farms, particularly in arable areas of the country.
With the correct variety and site selection you can achieve high fresh weight and energy yields. Typically good maize silage will yield 25t/ha, with 30-33pc dry matter (DM), 11.0-11.5 MJ ME/kg DM, 28-30pc starch and 7-9pc crude protein.
This analysis helps to explain the benefit of maize silage when incorporated into a beef ration. The energy story is very important for the winter finisher as supplying energy to the finisher animal is the greatest direct cost.
High-quality maize silage can supply energy equivalent per tonne DM of 65pc of rolled cereals. At current cereal costs this puts a very high value on good-quality maize silage.
The debate on growing maize under plastic versus in the open (without plastic) still rages. Unfortunately, a lot of growers are making ill-informed decisions in this regard -- for example, growing without the aid of plastic in marginal areas and selecting a variety more suited for use with plastic.