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Suckler Cow Rations – Things To Consider This Winter

22 October 2021

Spring calving sucklers in fit/good condition (>BCS 3) can generally be kept on lower quality forage, as their requirements are close to maintenance throughout most of the winter-feeding period.

Their protein requirements are predominately met by the rumen bugs, therefore a supply of rumen degradable protein is vital to ensure the bugs thrive. Rumen degradable protein will usually come from the silage in the ration. Silage rations mixed with straw require careful balancing, particularly if the protein of the silage is low (<10% CP in DM).
On straw-based rations a protein source must be provided, or straw must be treated. The minimum requirement for dry sucklers is 9% CP DM in the overall ration. This is the equivalent of feeding 2kg of a 30% CP DM concentrate alongside untreated straw.

Actions to take:

Ammonia treatment has risen in cost this year and in some areas is difficult to source, those that normally winter their sucklers on ammonia treated straw may want to consider alternatives. Table 1 shows the cost of feeding ammonia treated straw at the time of writing is on par with feeding untreated straw and a high protein liquid, therefore this may be an option to consider where ammonia is difficult to source. Alternative options are feeding untreated straw with barley and a protein source, 2 examples are shown below, feeding rapemeal or wheat distillers grains.

Table 1:

 650 kg Cow
FeedStraw + Barley/RSMStraw + Barley/WDGsStraw + Protein LiquidAmmonia Treated
Straw (£100/t)
Straw NH3 (£150/t)12
Bruised barley (£190/t)0.90.5
Rapemeal (£300/t)1.6
Wheat dark grains (£280/t)2
Protein liquid 27% CP (£239/t 10 t del.)3.5
Cost £/day1.621.631.791.80

Notes: these are examples and assumes a 650kg cow in good condition. Access to feed and quality of forage will affect how the rations feed out and nutritional advice should always be sought. Also providing a mineral supplement designed for feeding alongside straw based rations is essential.

Mary Young,

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