Yeast crucial to increased forage intakes

Feeding rumen specific live yeast has helped one Cornish farming family increase forage intakes, exploiting the potential of their milk contract by increasing milk solids.

“While the diet has been changed and refined over the last twelve months to great effect, one constant has been the inclusion of a Biotal SC farm pack,” explains Steve Symons, Biotal Regional Business Manager in the South West.

“They have been feeding our yeast farm packs for several years and are convinced of the benefits.”

The Griffin family have farmed at Wheatley Farm, Maxworthy in North Cornwall for over 127 years and Andrew is the fifth generation, farming with his father Raymond. In total they farm 250 acres of heavy land but still manage to produce top quality forage for the 145 strong black and white dairy herd.

The farm is mainly down to grass but every year 20 acres of cereals will be grown for feeding to the cows, either as
crimped cereals or fermented wholecrop, depending on other forage stocks.

“In 2016 we made crimp as we had plenty of silage,” Andrew Griffin comments.

“However, this year we needed more fibre in the diet to complement the first cut so we made wholecrop wheat in late July, treating the forage with Biotal Wholecrop Gold to ensure it stays cool and stable during feed out.”

“First cut grass silage is usually taken in the first week of May but this year was cut two weeks earlier as the crop was ready and ground conditions were good.  The tonnage was a bit light but this has been made up by second cut which was taken five weeks later and by a good third cut”

All cuts were made using Biotal Axcool to ensure an effective fermentation and improve stability on opening ensuring minimal clamp losses. Quality is excellent. First cut analysed at 33.3%DM, 11.7ME and 18.5%CP, second cut is 35%DM, 10.7ME and 17.7% CP. Driving milk quality The cows calve all year round. In the summer they graze day and night with buffer feeding as required. Concentrate is fed through out of parlour feeders. From late August as grazing quality declines a shedding gate is used to hold high yielders back to maintain dry matter intakes. In the last twelve months, the diet has been re-engineered by Richard Waters, Ruminant Nutritionist with Harpers Feeds with the objective of achieving high forage intakes and increasing milk quality.

The forage:concentrate ratio in the TMR has increased from 60:40 in January to 68:32 in October with a target of 70:30. The quality of ingredients in the blend has been improved and total fat content of the diet reduced. At the same time the amount of concentrate fed through the out of parlour feeders has been reduced. Total dry matter intakes are currently 18.8kg/day with 12.8kg from forage.

 “To achieve this level of forage intake it is essential to optimise rumen function and digestion of fibre so they have continued to feed the yeast farm pack,” Steve Symons continues.

“Live yeast plays a vital role in the rumen. It scavenges oxygen and creates the conditions that favour specific fibre degrading microorganisms, by increasing the activity of bacteria that utilise lactic acid while reducing the activity of bacteria that produce lactic acid it helps minimise falls in rumen pH.”

“In the winter they use Biotal SC toxisorb while in the summer they switch to Biotal SC acidease to help ensure a stable rumen pH on a grass and cake based system. Both yeast farm packs have played a key role in allowing greater forage intakes as they have enabled the cows to process the diet more effectively”

“The impact of the changes has been significant,” Andrew Griffin comments. “Milk quality has never been so high averaging 4.6% fat and 3.5% protein, and peaking at 5.03% fat and 3.65% protein having risen from 4.0% and 3.2% respectively, meaning we have got a better milk price and are making full use of the price available within our contract.”

“We have increased efficiency because we have higher revenue and reduced costs and at the same time have not put more pressure on the cows. Yield per cow is broadly the same at 8500 litres but milk quality and fertility have improved. This is a much better approach for us than chasing expensive marginal litres.”