winter feeding

Winter Feeding 2021

Author: Jack Scallan  


Early silage analysis results indicate that silage is not of the usual high quality this year. This is not surprising as grass growth and quality were poor during the spring and summer periods. Poor growth rates, low protein levels and variable energy levels in grass lead to very low milk urea levels throughout the summer. The low protein in the grass caused many cows to fall short of their peak milk production. The growth rates, protein, and energy levels in grass recovered in the autumn but grass dry matter (DM) dropped which created issues with intakes and clean out of paddocks.

Silage Analysis Results 

The preliminary silage results are showing that the dry matter is high (25 to 30%), while protein and energy are low. The digestibility (DMD) is ranging from about 65 to 70%. As a result of the low nutrient value in combination with the high DM, some animals may not get their full nutrient requirement from silage alone. Therefore, it will be necessary to give these animals some supplementation over the winter period.

Concentrate Feeding 

The level of supplementation or meal feeding will initially depend on the silage analysis but also on the stock type, body condition score (BCS), target weights, and in the case of beef stock, daily live-weight gain (DLWG) and finishing weight.

Youngstock and weanlings should receive between 1 and 2 kg of a 16% concentrate, either nuts or coarse ration that has a UFL of at least 0.95 and contain good quality ingredients, such as barley, soya bean meal, beet pulp or maize meal. Particular attention should be given to replacement heifers this year as they need to achieve a target weight of 340 to 360kg at first service, while first-time calvers should be at 540 to 560kg at calving. Bodyweight at first calving depends on breed, age, etc., and should be approximately 90% of the cow’s mature weight.

Cows usually wouldn’t need any supplementation in the dry period where silage quality is average to good. This year, meal feeding may be required. This will be dependent on silage analysis and BCS. BCS should be 3.0 at drying off and 3.25 at calving. So far this year, cows have held their condition well and it should be maintained through the dry period. If supplementation is required, then up to 2.5kg/head/day should be adequate. Ideal supplementation options are a good pre-calver concentrate or a combination of straights such as barley, oats, maize meal or soya bean meal.


Cows eating silage


Particular attention should be given to first lactation cows as they can lose condition rapidly and find it difficult to build it back up. Housing them separately from the main herd is desirable, as they can be fed extra concentrate without excessive bullying from older cows.

Forward store cattle and finishing cattle will need a very high-energy diet to reach their target weights. A concentrate with 0.98 UFL or 0.97 UFV and a crude protein of 13 to 15%, should be adequate to achieve these targets with this year’s silage.

In all cases, a good source of fresh clean water must be available to counteract the high DM in the silage. If you have any queries regarding silage and its quality or if you wish to get your silage analysed, please contact your Cooney Furlong Representative or your local branch. 


Further Information: 

To view more articles from our Autumn/Winter Newsletter, please click here. 


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