The cold snap has finally landed, with temperatures dropping to minus 3 in places and even some wintry falls on higher ground, but are you adequately prepared feed-wise for the winter?
Recent weeks has seen many farmers rushing to get one final silage cut in before the season officially ends and to ensure they have their best foot forward in terms of providing for their stock, as feed can prove very expensive.
Last year saw many farmers extremely out of pocket with prolonged winter conditions leaving them no alternative but to source other feeds. There are other options available, however, which you can check out below!
Bread- The first up is bread. You may not have considered it previously, though bread and pastries can be a very useful source of feed for your stock. It contains a high DM content (up to 65%) and protein levels vary from 12 to 14%. It is also high in starch (73%) , though is low in fibre (23%).
Farmers can even feed up to 6kgs of bread per animal per day, though any change to a diet should always be introduced gradually. As bread is very low in fibre, farmers must always give their stock an adequate source of fibre along with feeding bread. Read the full guide to feeding bread and pastries here.
Potatoes - One of the most common finds in an Irish kitchen, the humble spud can also be fed to stock and it does have its values. Spuds have the equivalent feeding value to stock as that of grains such as barley. They are also an excellent energy source as they are full of Vitamin A. They are, however, not very high in protein and a protein supplement would, therefore, be needed. Again when introducing spuds, farmers should always do this gradually and ensure potatoes are adequately chopped to prevent choking. Read the full guide on feeding potatoes here.
Turnip - Another vegetable which has long been used by farmers to feed their stock, though not as much in recent years, the Turnip is a valuable food source for livestock and is commonly used for dairy cattle. They are a source of high-quality feed, with a high protein content (12 to 20%) and DM of up to 20%. Like spuds, turnips are also an excellent source of energy with energy levels of up to 13 Mj/kg DM.
Again, like potatoes, turnips must be chopped when fed to stock and introduced gradually. Though farmers can safely feed up to 5kgs per animal per day. Read the full guide on turnips here.
Hemp - Recent trials on using hemp seeds as a source of feed to stock have proven fruitful, with not only health benefits noted but also an increased level of production. Hemp seed is high in fatty acids, such as Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9 and GLA, while its is also very high in protein. Not only this, but studies have found hemp seed to be a good source of fibre and contains a range of useful minerals (Copper, Iron, Boron, Zinc, Manganese, Nitrogen and Zinc). Read all about hemp seed as feed here.
Wheat - One which is used more commonly by farmers, wheat is an excellent feed source for livestock. It is an excellent source of energy, equal to that of corn feeds, and wheat of low quality is perfect for use as feed, though a higher quality wheat is obviously preferred. Wheat should never be fed on a self-feeding basis unless salt is mixed through it. Read more about wheat as feed here.
Kelp - You surely have all heard of the health benefits associated with feeding kelp to livestock, especially those related to decreasing methane emissions but it also has its nutritional values. It has been proven to increase an animal’s weight gain, reduces stress and even improves the meat quality of the animal. That is not all as kelp is crammed full of minerals, such as Calcium, Fiber, Sodium, Iron, Copper, Iron, Iodine, Folate, Magnesium, Manganese, Riboflavin, Zinc, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. To learn more about feeding kelp head over here.
Other free options - There are also other ‘free’ options for those farmers who wish to put the effort in. Livestock can be trained to eat plants such as vetches, dock leaves, nettles, blackberry bushes and red clover.
Some paddocks are reportedly 30% weeds, therefore it is a good option to make the most of that 30%. Young nettle plants are high in protein and calcium, while blackberry bushes are highly nutritious to cattle and contain in excess of 12% protein. Red clover, as I’m sure you are aware, contains up to 15% protein when (and only when) 50% in flower. The Dock plant, meanwhile, is also very nutritional and contains high levels of phosphate, magnesium and potassium. It also is said to prevent bloat. Learn more about training your stock to eat weeds here.
There you have it, as winter approaches and farmers rush to finalize their feed plans for the coming months there are many alternative options available which just may prove cheaper and are just as beneficial nutritional-wise. Get stocking up now, before it is simply too late.