Low quality silage poses health and fertility issues, warn experts
Dairy farmers need to supplement cows with concentrates
Dairy farmers with low DMD silage face increased cow health and fertility problems this spring unless they are willing to feed higher levels of concentrates.
Veterinary consultant Tommy Heffernan said that significant numbers of farmers have struggled to maintain condition on cows this winter because of poor quality silage.
Mr Heffernan pointed out that the silage quality on some farms was as low as 60 to 65 DMD, which was a serious problem for milk suppliers who were unable to get cows out on grass this month.
"The energy requirements go up so high when cows are milking, that farmers are going to have to make up the difference in rations," Mr Heffernan said.
He said farmers typically fed cows 3-4kg of rations post-calving. However, he predicted that many milk suppliers with poorer quality silage will have to feed 6-7kg of ration this spring to prevent cows milking off their backs.
A survey of 2,000 silage samples carried by FBA Laboratories in Fermoy before Christmas found that the average DMD fell to 67, but that values were very mixed. A further study by Teagasc in Clonmel found that values ranged from a high of 72 DMD to a low of 62 DMD.
Mr Heffernan maintained that milk suppliers who are farming heavy ground and are unable to get cows out on early grass will be particularly hard hit by this year's poor quality silage.
He urged farmers who were facing extended housing periods this spring to get their silage analysed.