Back Putting weight on cows with maize silage

Date: 18 March 2016

Maize silage is a top cow conditioner. It is highly palatable and can be fed in large amounts to increase cow condition score while at the same time increasing autumn pasture cover levels.

With the payout down, many farmers are looking to milk on as long as possible to extract as much income as they can from the current season. This is a great idea as long as you can achieve a dry period of at least six weeks and you don’t compromise cow condition score or pasture cover levels at calving. A cost-effective feed source is also necessary and home-grown or bought in maize silage is an excellent option.

As long as you have leafy pasture on hand, maize silage can be fed at up to half the dietary drymatter intake. Start by feeding 1kgDM/cow per day and slowly increase the amount you are feeding over a 7-10 day period until you reach the desired feeding level. Watch dietary calcium, phosphorus and sodium levels especially if you are feeding high maize silage rates.

Achieving condition score targets is almost always economic. The lighter your cows are, the higher the returns from getting them up to condition score 5.0 (or 5.5 for heifers and first calvers).

The net return for using maize silage to put one condition score on a 450 kg cow is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Return from using maize silage to increase cow condition (450kg F x J cow)1

Feed purchase cost

BCS change

 

3.0 - 4.0

3.5 - 4.5

4.0 - 5.0

18 c/kgDM

$69

$57

$46

25 c/kgDM

$55

$42

$31

32 c/kgDM

$40

$27

$16

 

Dry off the lighter cows first and then divide them into two groups – those calving before the midpoint and those calving after the midpoint. Preferentially feed cows in the earlier calving group to ensure meet condition score targets. The later calving cows can be focused on next as they have a longer period of time to meet condition score targets.

1Assumes 85% utilisation including losses in storage, a feed out cost of 5c/kgDM, a milksolids payout of $4.25/kgMS. The milksolids benefit of putting a condition score on a cow is assumed to be 18 kg for CS 3.0 – 4.0; 15 kg for CS 3.5-4.5 and 12.5 kg for 4.0 to 5.0.