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Spring feeding options.

Dairy Pipeline: May 1996

by Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition
Virginia Tech

With corn prices being at near record levels, it may be wise to reconsider some of your feeding options. If you had a good corn silage crop last year, you may have some extra that could be used to supplement dry cows and replacements. Normally corn silage with acid detergent fibers ranging from 23 to 28% will have about one half of the dry matter as ear (cob and kernel). Using this assumption, 20 lbs. of corn silage would supply 4 lbs. of ear corn dry matter (20 * .40 = 8; 8 * .50 = 4). This can replace an equal amount of corn grain. Now is the time to maximize the use of your home grown silage. Also barley harvested as soft dough silage this spring can be used to supply some of the energy needs of the dairy herd. Another option is to wait and harvest the barley grain and use as a replacement for corn in the ration. Pasture can be a cheap source of nutrients for all classes of animals, and, if managed correctly, can supply most of the nutrient needs of dry cows and replacement heifers. With lactating dairy cows on intensively managed pasture, it may be possible to feed less feed grains or complete concentrates and maintain milk flow. For instance, it may be possible to feed a 4:1 or even 5:1 milk to concentrate ratio as opposed to a more typical 3:1. Other options may be available for replacing some corn in the diet, but high producing dairy cows should be given first priority for the purchased corn.

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