Nuts about Grass! By FeedCo nutritionist Matt Holmes

As a company, FeedCo will always advise our customers to strive to make the highest quality grass forage possible.

With new modern grass varieties and farmers realising the benefit of cutting younger, leafier grass, we see farmers consistently making low NDF Silage (45 & below) with energy values of 11ME +.

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Why is it important to look at NDF?

NDF stands for Neutral Detergent Fibre and is often overlooked on a silage analysis however it is one of the most important figures to look out for as it helps determine how much a ruminant can eat before they feel physically full.

The lower the NDF on a forage the more that animal is capable of consuming and therefore increasing the amount of nutrients they are receiving.

In a dairy cow scenario, making low NDF highly digestible grass silage will equate to more milk from forage as well as aiding a higher plane of nutrition which brings other benefits such as better fertility.

On a beef grower/finisher scenario the more that animal can eat forage-wise the less concentrates will be required to achieve the same DLWG. Making low fibre silages does bring its own problems and challenges when it comes to rationing a ruminant be it dairy or beef. Low structural fibre diets have led farmers having to feed a source of physical fibre in the ration which over the past 5 years we have seen ground straw as a highly effective way of giving a diet structure and acting as a rumen buffer. Ground straw has shown good results but is not always practical on farm as it requires an additional bunker to store it and there is also the cost of the straw and contractor to chop it.

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Greendale, Exeter – Grass Nuts Testimonial

Since May 2021 FeedCo have had grass nuts available as a straight raw material or included within our bespoke blends. They are produced just 20 miles away from the blending plant which means they have a low carbon footprint as far as raw materials go. Grass nuts have a protein 15.5% and an ME of 11.

One customer who has used Grass Nuts in their protein blend is Tom Chanter, Farm Manager for Greendale, Exeter. The beef finishing unit finishes 3,500 cattle a year on a TMR system consisting of maize silage, grass silage, rolled barley and a protein blend.

As straw prices increased Tom decided to remove the 0.25kg of straw per head from the ration to remove some cost. At the time of doing so they were feeding a 2nd cut from 2020 which was all new seed grass leys that spring which was cut at a young leafy stage.

The cattle were showing signs of being loose enough on this ration so we decided to introduce grass nuts into the protein blend. It worked out that the cattle would get 400g per head per day of grass nuts and the response could be seen immediately! We have always kept a close eye on the dung, and this altered overnight back to where it was originally when straw was going into the ration.

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Happy Rumen, Happy Cattle

The management on the unit is the key to consistent growth rates with the TMR being fed out at the same time consistently each day using the Keenan Pace system but we both feel whilst feeding forage maize and rolled barley and a low NDF grass silage the grass nuts have certainly helped keep the rumen happy.

The cattle are proof of that, consistently doing 1.6-1.7kg per day as an average across the farm which is due to the quality of the cattle coming into the sheds, keeping a close eye on the ration as well as regular weighing of the animals to help keep on top of the live weight gains where they need to be to remain profitable.

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