Fodder beet a fit for late lactation
Gaining and maintaining Body Condition Score (BCS) pre-winter is a primary focus for dairy farmer, Mike Sales. Fodder beet on the platform has proved a valuable tool as a late lactation feed, which has enabled the farm to improve BCS whilst increasing milk production toward the end of the season.
Mike is a joint equity manager, milking 1,200 cows on a 408 hectare property at Patoka in Hawke’s Bay. The farm has been using fodder beet in the system for the past four years, and through trial and error, has found its best fit on-farm as a late lactation feed.
“The first year we wintered on with beet, but found that didn’t fit our system and we were better off wintering the cows off farm,” Mike explains. The past two years they have used it as a supplementary feed in April and May following summer turnips. Mike has been able to increase milksolid production without compromising BCS. “It also fits our system practically this way, no double handling like you get with maize”.
With advice from PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative, Warren Johnson, nine hectares of Jamon fodder beet were precision sown last October, where an average yield of 28 t DM per ha was measured. The farm had used Jamon in previous years, achieving outstanding yields with a good leaf percentage which is important as it is grazed in situ.
Once transitioned, they feed a maximum of four kilograms of beet per cow per day along with four kilograms of PKE: biscuit meal mix (through the in-shed feed system) and ten kilograms of grass. Mike takes a patient and thorough approach to transitioning, and as a result has lost no cows on fodder beet. The cows begin with 20 minutes on the crop each day and allocation is slowly increased by five minutes per day until they reach their maximum allocation of four kilograms. This is generally about 45 minutes before they are then moved onto grass.
Only the twice-a-day milkers are fed fodder beet (800 cows) whereas the remainder are once-a-day for the entire season and are not allocated any beet. “We’ve found it easier to achieve our target BCS of 4.2 to 4.4 at dry-off since using fodder beet, but we are seeing the biggest benefits in the vat,” says Mike. “We love fodder beet here, it’s well suited to our system”.
Although they were achieving similar dry-off BCS pre-beet, this came at a cost of total production using a larger area of turnips and higher in-shed feeding, as well as going to once-a-day milking earlier. Now with the introduction of fodder beet, milk production has increased as the cows are able to milk twice a day all the way through, without compromising BCS. Mike has found that very long break fences are the key to achieving a uniform BCS across all cows.
The milk quality has also improved, with the milksolid percentage increasing from around 8.8 percent pre-beet to over 10.0 percent with beet in the diet. Fodder beet is a very high quality feed source with Metabolisable Energy (ME) values in the bulb above 14 MJME and soluble sugars between 55 to 70 percent on average.
For more information on Jamon fodder beet, contact your local PGG Wrightson representative.
Supplied by Agricom