Paying attention to the forage quality pays off: it has a strong influence on the animals´ physiology and performance, and therefore on the economic success of the farm.
Excellent quality forage is a prerequisite to ensuring the profitability of your farm because:
• It helps to meet the physiological requirements for ruminants,
• It preserves and improves the livestock´s health,
• It determines the feed intake and therefore the quantity of energy and nutrients ingested,
• It has an influence on the milk quality,
• It is necessary to achieve the high yields possible from today´s high-performance dairy cows,
• It brings other economic benefits as expensive concentrates can be replaced by energy-rich fodder.
Everything is linked together
As roughage, hay, and grass silage can be qualified as functional animal feed. They are an obligatory part of a ruminant´s ration, as a certain percentage of well-structured crude fiber is necessary to stimulate the rumination reflex. This roughage also contributes to ensuring sufficient rumination time and activity, as well as salvia secretion, which protects the livestock against feed-related diseases such as acidosis Rumen acidosis is a metabolic disease of cattle. It is said to occur when the pH of the rumen falls to less than 5.5 (normal is 6.5 to 7.0). This fall has two effects: Firstly, the rumen stops moving, which depresses appetite and production. Secondly, the change in acidity changes the rumen flora, with acid-producing bacteria taking over. The primary cause of acidosis is feeding a too high level of concentrates compared to forage.. Moreover, roughage reduces the risk of immunosuppressions This involves an act that reduces the activation or efficacy of the immune system, meaning the body´s own defense mechanisms to fight diseases., which give increased risk of inflammation of claw, uterus or udder.
Developing this further, mastitis – an udder inflammation – also has a negative impact on milk quality, as it increases the somatic cell count, and thus lowers the milk quality. The milk quality is even more directly influenced by the forage quality, as the energy and nutrient content in the forage affect the fat and protein content of the milk.
The forage quality also has a major impact on the animals feed intake. For this to be maximized, the forage has to be both energy-rich and palatable. High quantities of ingested energy and nutrients coming from the basic ration are necessary in order to fulfill the requirements of today´s high-performance dairy cows - such cows can achieve milk yields over 10,000 kg per year. In addition, increasing basic ration intake reduces the quantity of expensive concentrate which must also be fed to the herd.
Hay and silage provide the most efficient and competitive livestock feed; but only if they are of high enough quality.
You, as professional dairy farmers, cattle breeders or sheep/goat farmers are encouraged to raise your demands when considering your own basic ration.
Read on to find out what improving the forage quality could mean in terms of extra cash in your wallet!
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