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By Victoria Phillips, BSc Agricultural Nutrition and MSc Animal Production

After months of sustained high dairy commodity prices, farmgate milk prices are finally starting to reflect the record-breaking values of butter and cream. Processors had initially been slow to return sky-rocketing prices for fats, but many have now upped the price they pay for milk, with the UK average now edging towards the 30p/litre mark for September 2017. Whilst this is good news, practices on farm to improve efficiency shouldn’t be forgotten, and can further increase profitability as milk prices continue to rise.

Using homegrown forages effectively is the most economical way of feeding on farm. While this season’s forage yields have been good the quality has been variable. Protein levels are higher this year compared to where they were last year (up from 22.9% from 19.6%), but both Dry Matter Intake (DMI) and Metabolisable Energy (ME) levels are lower than the same period in 2016. Cane molasses products such as Caneflow will provide energy in the form of sugars to balance the lower levels seen in this season’s grass, and also improve dry matter intakes in many ways.

Table 1                                                             Table 2

As well as low Dry matter, the ME content of forages are also lower this year (see Table 3), resulting in forages that are proportionally higher in protein but lower in sugars. By adding Caneflow molasses to a typical dairy diet, you can replace the lower sugars very effectively. In the Bioparametrics ration programme*, diets based on 35 litres milk a day with silage qualities of 11.2MJ ME/kgDM and 8.2 MJ/kg DM were compared. Identical rations with the silages showed a reduction in margin of £0.58 per head per day due to a reduction in yield of 2 litres per day, costing £174.00 per day in a 300 cow herd.

Recent data from ADHB¹ shows that although grass growth rates are up (see Table 1), the dry matter of the forages are lower than last year (see Table 2), which means less dry matter per mouthful. By balancing the degradable protein in grass and grass silage, and making the forage more palatable, the addition of molasses will encourage animals to eat more and produce more milk. On average an increase of 1kg DMI into the cow gives an additional 2 litres of milk.

This significant reduction in the sugar content of the silage can be regained by adding extra Caneflow molasses to the diet. Increasing the molasses content of the ration by 1kg per day brings the yield back up to 38 litres/day, and increases profit by £0.39 per day, or £117.00 per herd. Whilst not quite as high as the margin from high-energy silage, it is an easy replacement to make up for the poorer forage quality deficit and help ensure farms are can still maximise their milk production and take advantage of the current financial returns on offer!

* Bioparametrics, Peter Wilson Building, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG

¹ Agricultural & Horticulture Development Board,

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