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Balancing Silage For Growing/ Finishing Cattle

22 November 2021

Silage quality is variable, (as shown in table 1), 1st cut beef and sheep pit silage is on average slightly higher in energy, however, is lower in crude protein compared to 2nd cut.  This is similar in 2nd cut bales which have also analysed higher in protein compared to 1st cut bales.  This variability will affect the overall ration when moving between 1st and 2nd cut silage.  Therefore, it’s important to take these nutritional differences into account to make sure performance and growth targets are achieved when making changes to the ration.

Table 1: Beef and sheep silages averages 2021

Nutrient Value1st Cut Pit2nd Cut Pit1st Cut Bales2nd Cit Bales
DM g/kg311305389352
ME MJ/kg DM11.010.810.510.6
CP % DM10.912.610.812.4
NDF g/kg DM491467512470
Sugar g/kg DM74698485
SIP g/kg LW0.75100101106103

Growing and finishing cattle will require supplementation to balance the lower protein content of 1st cuts.  It may be tempting to reduce bought in protein in the ration, even when it is required, however this will directly impact the performance and health of the animal.  Protein and energy are required for the rumen bugs to function, therefore where animals are deficient their intakes will drop, and their liveweight gains will reduce.

Table 2: Overall protein target of the ration

Type of AnimalCrude Protein (% DM)
Newly weaned calf (first 6 weeks)14
Growing store (post 6 weeks)11 - 12
Finishing cattle (forage based)12

Table 3: Example rations for a 400kg continental cross steer growing 1kg/day based on average 1st cut and 2nd cut pit silage

 1st Cut2nd Cut
1st cut pit average (kg)16-
2nd cut pit average (kg)-16
Barley (kg)33.5
Rapeseed Meal (kg)0.3-
Ration provides per day
% CP (DM)12.112.2
MJ of ME/kg DM11.811.7
Total MJ ME per day9292

*These rations are based on the average CP figures for 1st and 2nd cut silages. Silages with a CP less than this will require higher levels of supplementation.

The price of protein is high this year, with the above in mind it is vital to have your silage analysed in order to balance it with the most appropriate supplement.  Monitoring the consistency of the manure is a good way to detect if the protein balance of the ration is correct.  If manure is very stiff and dry this would indicate a protein deficiency.

Mary Young,

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