Increasing concentrates: Does it increase profit?

“Feeding concentrates for maximum yields does not ensure profit.”

This was the key message from Teagasc’s Brian Garry, when he addressed the crowd at the winter milk conference in the Ardboyne Hotel, in Navan, on Thursday (October 26).

According to Teagasc, the basic dietary requirement for a dairy cow is 2.8-3.2% of total body weight in dry matter (DM) intake. She also needs: 0.9-0.95 UFL/kg DM (energy); 90-105g of PDI/kg DM (protein); and 300-350g/kg DM of NDF (fibre).

However, how can the farmer reach these targets over the winter, while keeping costs to a minimum?

To put this into perspective, the following table indicates the specifications of different feed types.

Source: Teagasc

According to Garry, additional concentrates are not completely equal to total energy intake – and can also be quite expensive.

Farmers should know the quality and feeding value of their winter forage and, therefore, adjust concentrate supplementation accordingly.

Concentrates can not only be a drain on profit, but also provide a negative effect on the animal’s performance. Looking at associative effects of concentrates, extra supplementation reduces fibre digestion efficiency, leading to a negative response from the forage in the diet.

If forage is substituted by concentrates, dry matter intake (DMI) increases leading to a diminishing return – the concentrates displace the forage.

“There is a greater response to concentrate supplementation when fed in conjunction with poorer quality silage. Response to concentrates is reduced for each additional kilogram fed,” he explained.

Source: Teagasc

Garry said: “It’s all about getting the foundations right – forage quality is the single most important nutritional factor when it comes to feeding the dairy cow.

Milk production is greatest when good quality forage is included in the diet.

“This will result in a reduced concentrate requirement and, therefore, an increased profit margin,” he concluded.