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Sunday 31 August 2014

Feeding straw to cattle this winter

O. MCGRATH, TEAGASC

Published 13/09/2012 | 17:29

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WITH fodder supplies limited this year, one of the alternative options available to farmers is to feed straw to cattle. It should be noted, however, that it is important to supplement the feed and to keep a close eye on the condition of the animals.

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Straw can be used as a source of fibre for cattle in winter and can provide a major portion of the energy requirement. However, straw is very low in protein and must also be balanced with minerals. Oaten straw is best while barley straw is better than wheaten straw. he most suitable cattle for feeding straw in winter are dry suckler cows, store cattle and weanlings.

Straw is normally 88% dry matter and a standard 4x4 bale weighs 150 kgs, although this can vary. A big square bale of straw (8x4x3) should weigh 400 kgs.

Where no silage is being fed and 50% of the animal's diet is provided by straw, meals with 18% cr.protein should be fed to supplement. The following is a guideline.

Using the table below one round bale of barley straw should feed 30 dry suckler cows for one day provided they get 2kgs of meal each per day. Straw can also be used to replace some of the silage requirements of all cattle provided it is balanced with suitable meals /minerals. It is also worth noting that, this year, much of the very late hay and first cut silage has a feeding value similar to straw and should be supplemented as well.

DANGERS WHEN RESTRICTING FEED.

1. Adequate feeding space is important as all animals eat meals together,

2. Balance with protein and minerals,

3. Have a good supply of fresh water,

4. Build up meals slowly,

5. Watch body condition, meals may need to be increased or decreased,

6. Ensure straw is dry as cattle will not eat mouldy straw.

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