Winter rations are presenting a challenge as many farmers are having to base diets on higher fibre grass silages or incorporate straw feeding, due to low forage stocks, into their winter rationing plans. These forage bases are more difficult for the rumen microbes to digest, leading to problems with intakes and cows not performing as expected. Straw feeding with molasses molasses either to replace a proportion of grass silage in the diet, or to replace silage totally in heifer and growing cattle diets, has challenges with palatability, digestibility, and low protein availability. Straw and high fibre forages are low in the rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (RFC) that are required in the rumen, and and supplementing RFC can be a challenge to balance to provide the best source to stimulate rumen activity without compromising rumen health. The key to utilising high fibre forage or replacing silage with straw is by maximising its digestibility and promoting high levels of rumen activity and fermentation.


Molasses and molasses blends provide a valuable source of fermentable energy and help improve fibre digestion in high fibre silages. Molasses contains a blend of different types of sugars which are proven to be more highly rumen fermentable, increase microbial protein production, improve fibre digestion and stimulate rumen microbes than other sugar sources. More traditionally, the high palatability of molasses help drive dry matter intakes. Independent research found that including 1.5kg wheat straw and 1.5kg protein-enhanced molasses blend (Regumix) in replacement of 7.5kg grass silage is an effective feeding solution which allows production to be maintained while also preserving valuable silage stocks. When implementing a straw-based ration, it is important to allow a two-week adaption period and to make any dietary changes gradually. Additional mineral supplementation may also be required and access to fresh water is critical for cattle.


Higher dry matter TMR’s are also at risk of aerobic spoilage when fed out, the first signs of this are the ration heating, usually accompanied by distinct off odours. When this occurs, valuable nutrients are lost, high levels of feed are wasted, and the diet becomes less attractive. A typical 5% reduction in dry matter due to heating in the TMR can equate to a loss of 1.1kg DM/cow/day significantly reducing animal performance. To help prevent aerobic spoilage consider adding a ration conditioner like Fresh-Guard, which is available to add to any ED&F Man molasses bulk blends, which has been proven to reduce heating and undesirable microbial activity. Planning ahead and taking steps to maximise feed efficiency will be a practical way to help improve animal performance and margins despite higher feed prices.

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