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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Here are some options for stretching your silage

Dairy Pipeline: September 2002

Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition

Typically we want to maintain forage dry matter intake at a minimum of 1.5% of body weight up to 2.0%. That means with silage of 35% dry matter we need a minimum of 40 lbs. per cow per day when feeding 5 lbs. of hay to a 1300 lb. cow. One way to feed less silage is to increase the amount of hay. This is possible but feeding more than 10 lbs. per cow per day is difficult due to physical ability to eat this much long hay. If included in a TMR hay must be chopped but more than 10 lbs. tends to make it difficult to mix ingredients consistently. When you don't have 5 lbs. of hay it is possible to feed a lb. or two of straw. Straw is very high in fiber and will stimulate rumination, however, do not substitute straw for hay except on a limited basis. Straw is very low in energy. Another alternative is to use cottonseed hulls and/or whole cottonseeds. Cottonseed hulls are very effective at stimulating rumination and will generally increase intake. Feed up to 5 lbs./cow/day. If hulls are not an option, whole cottonseeds contain the hulls and can be fed at up to 7 lbs./cow/day. Linted cottonseed is best at stretching forages. Soybean hulls, although high in fiber, are in a different physical form and do not stimulate rumination as well as cottonseed hulls. Brewers grains can be used to stretch forage because fiber levels are similar to corn silage. However, the form of the fiber is finer and does not stimulate rumination the same as coarsely chopped silage. Limit wet brewers grains to 30 lbs./cow/day and dry to 7. When feeding rations with limited forage it is a good idea to add sodium bicarbonate or sesquicarbonate at .3 to .5 lbs./cow/day to buffer acids. Finally, small grain in the spring can give some relief if planned properly. Rye is the first plant available in the spring and can be grazed or made into silage. Silage making at this time of year is sometimes difficult, however. Barley for silage harvested at the soft dough stage is probably the closest to corn silage in energy. This can be extensively used to stretch corn silage next spring. Plan now by taking a feed inventory.

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