Maintaining Butterfats during grazing
Cornish farmer Gavin Rodda runs a 330-cow dairy herd at Rosemorran Farm, producing an average of 9500 litres. Milk which is produced under contract for Cathedral City branded cheese, which demands the constituents and quality of the milk are consistently high.
To assist in meeting these standards and to review the general health and wellbeing of his herd, Gavin sought the help of a nutritionist Andy Hawken from Three Counties Feeds. Andy says “The challenge when taking over this farm, as their nutritionist, was to improve the milk constituents and keep the yield high. One of the tools in the armoury to achieve this was the addition of pre-chopped, short straw to the ration.”
“When out to grass, traditionally butterfats crash but by adding consistent pre-chopped straw to the ration we have seen butterfats at over 4% in the summer and in the winter up to 4.3%. Also, the proteins have stayed stable at 3.3% in the summer and 3.6% in the winter.”
Straw is a great form of effective fibre but it must be processed and sufficiently supplemented with other forages or feeds to avoid straw impaction.
Andy Hawken explains, “We want to reduce the length of the straw significantly from the traditional “muzzle width” which produces multiple scratching effects on to the papillae (which are like little fingers). More scratching stimulates more papillae, creating more surface area and increasing the nutrients back into the cow and this is all achieved by chopping the straw consistently in the correct way.”
Andy Hawken explains, “When you use pre-chopped straw as part of a balanced diet you need to add extra protein to help improve rumen function otherwise you could cause straw impaction which can lead to major health problems for the animal.” Straw impaction occurs when the cows’ ration does not contain enough protein and fermentable energy to feed the rumen microbes, these microbes break down the fibre, without this process the straw becomes blocked in the stomach (omasum/abomasum). The symptoms of straw impaction include low appetite and very solid dung.
Gavin says “At first we used a contractor to chop our straw but this became a costly and time consuming process. We contacted Teagle and they recommended the New Tomahawk 8555 Dual Chop with a removable screen which we can use for both feeding and bedding.