Ruminants: feeding for health and profit?
Chair: Kennard (Graig Producers)
John Bax (dairy consultant): Improving health, performance and longevity in ruminants
John started his agricultural career working as a stockman and herdsman in Scotland and Wales for five years. He obtained a degree in Animal Science, at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) followed by 3 years researching protein nutrition in ruminants. He was then a general agricultural advisor for the SAC before moving to the Crichton Royal Farm (CRF), SAC's centre for dairy research in SW Scotland responsible for the management, experimental design and technology transfer for a long term, 2 herd system study investigating the physical and financial outcomes of differing dairy management strategies. Whilst at the CRF he also developed new forage strategies for milk production systems, carried out feeding trials and lectured in dairy management. He became a national dairy specialist consultant in the UK for SAC. He moved to Lallemand UK, 11 years ago as their national technical manager where he helped to develop new silage inoculants and he developed an integrated nutrition and forage planning program. He now provides technical support for Lallemand with a global remit, focusing on ruminant production and forage quality, with a particular interest in optimising rumen function to improve forage utilization, animal health and performance.
Presentation - Improving health, performance and longevity in ruminants
Markus Hohl (dairy farmer, Devon): How to produce 5500 kg milk from forage?
Presentation - How to produce 5500 kg milk from forage?
Jeremy Hoskins(beef farmer): Finishing beef cattle on forage only: how and why?
Jeremy Hoskins farms 950 acres of light brash land at 700 feet on the Cotswolds near Cirencester in Glos. The farm runs 70 sucklers and followers on 450 acres of grass in various environmental schemes. There is also an arable rotation growing 350 acres of wheat ,oats and beans for seed.
Johnny Bax (dairy consultant) led us through an interesting exploration of the mechanisms by which nutrition affects animal health, with a diet high in rumen-friendly forage minimising stress-induced metabolic responses such as laminitis, by maintaining a balanced rumen microflora. Nutrition also impacts fertility and Johnny introduced a new development in promoting fertility by a two-stage feeding approach post calving, with a first stage of glucogenic feeding (e.g. with mpg or grains) to give high insulin to reduce the length of postpartum anoestrous, followed by a second stage of lipogenic feeding from forage and fats to lower insulin levels and promote oocyte development. Johnny stressed that increasing intake of quality forage is the key to good health and longevity, and this point was reinforced by Markus Hohl, a dairy farmer from Devon. Originally managing a high yielding Holstein herd, Markus found that despite increasing inputs, productivity fell, and so he converted to organic in 2000. The need to improve forage quality to ensure animal health, longevity and ultimately self-sufficiency and profitability led Markus to focus on the role of soil health, forage diversity and feeding practices. Soil health is encouraged through carefully controlled cultivations and cover crops to keep fertility in the top horizons and reduce weed pressure. A well-designed diverse crop rotation which includes a 2yr Italian ryegrass /red clover ley for forage, fodder beet, spring barley/pea for lupicaleage and undersown spring barley meets the dual needs of promoting soil health and providing a range of crops for feed. Feed management, from harvesting, processing and storage of forage to feeding practices, aims to optimise the intake of high quality forage; combined with a three breed system, Markus has been able to achieve an impressive lifetime yield of 53915 litres from forage. The role of forage in finishing beef cattle was illustrated by Jeremy Hoskins, a beef farmer near Cirencester. Jeremy farms on unproductive Cotswold soils, and uses a red clover sileage as a main feed for his cattle over winter, with the chopped and inoculated silage stored as round-bales rather than clamped. Jeremy highlighted the importance of knowing the value of forage on your farm, with regular testing of stored forage to match nutritional needs with optimal feed provision. Both farmers also stressed the importance of breed selection and cross-breeding in maximising production from forage, and Johnny Bax made the point that while all breeds have the same species of rumen flora, breeds will vary in their forage intake capacity. Discussion centred on how to optimise yield from forage, with last year’s weather contributing to a shortage in available forage. Promoting a healthy soil with high organic matter and active soil organisms was seen as important to support production, with management to reduce compaction and increase aeration, as was re-seeding of patches within grass/clover leys to prevent weed establishment, and the production of a range of forage crops to reduce the risk of crop failures.