What cake should I be feeding this spring?

With cows now beginning to start grazing this spring what cake should you be using?  It’s a call I often have from members, and it’s questions like this I am here to help with.

The problem with grass is it can have a greater variability than ensiled forages because it can depend on the weather, the time of year, timing of fertiliser application etc. etc.

The biggest variation that would affect your cake choice for the spring would be the crude protein (CP%) of the spring grass.  Once the growing season really gets going in April/May this can hit levels at over 30% CP!

What cake should you use?  The general consensus is that as you move into the spring you should switch to a HDF (High Fibre) cake to increase the fibre levels in your diet.  To be honest because the fibre content is ground down etc. before being made into the cake is it making a huge difference?  Not massively, and to help fibre and therefore butterfat levels at grazing you need to ensure that cows are grazing the grass down tight enough to be eating not just the leaf, but also the stem because this is the fibrous part of the plant.

As for the protein level of your cake, the best indication of your choice should be your milk urea levels.  Depending on your processor, depends on how it is reported but generally the ideal is between 0.02 to 0.03, or 200 to 300, ideally somewhere near the middle to lower end of the spectrum.

Based on this it can help you consider your next cake load, too high choose something with a lower CP%, or too low and choose something with a higher CP% next time.

The cakes to consider for grazing are usually a 14%, for April/May (maybe 16%?) and then for June/July look at a 16% as the CP% levels in grass drops off.

Not only does using a lower CP% cake make more sense for your cow, because too high CP% levels, increases ammonia emissions, which we all need to reduce, reduces production potential as energy is being used to expel the protein rather than for milk production, affects the health of the cow because she will usually loose condition and affect your fertility performance, but most of all because its cheaper for your bank balance! The difference between a 18% and 14% cake can be £10-15/t! why be paying this when you don’t need to?

If you wish to discuss your cake choice call FAR registered Dairy Nutritionist & CowSignals® Master Andrew Jones on 07717 44288 or email andrew@dblbuyinggroup.co.uk