The value of forage crops from a herd management perspective and the savings that can be made by incorporating forage crops into a feeding programme were highlighted on the farm of Richie and Paddy Daly farm, Moyne.
The Daly brothers run a 200 -cow dairy herd and rear in the region of 300 Holstein Friesian bull calves annually. Forage crops such as kale have become an important part of the their dairy calf to beef system.
The decision to grow forage crops was made well over 10 years ago and Richie explained to the attendance that kale allowed for the out-wintering of about 70 Friesian bulls every year.
The walk was hosted by Germinal Ireland and the Dalys have mainly grown Maris Kestrel kale, supplied by Germinal. This was the first year they tried Redstart (a kale and rape hybrid).
Richie said that he was happy with the daily-live weight gains achieved by the Friesian bulls grazing the kale crops over the years as they tended to gain about 0.8kg/day whilst grazing Maris Kestrel kale.
He mentioned that looking at this year’s batch, they appear to be performing better than similar stock on grass and concentrate diets.
In line with advice offered by Germinal’s Jim Gibbons, Richie highlighted that the bulls are introduced to the kale slowly, and for the first 10 days they have access to grass in an adjoining paddock.
This was something Dr Emer Kennedy Teagasc Moorepark pointed out during her address as good management practise. Once the cattle have become acclimatised, they are locked into the paddock until the crop is fully grazed. The bulls also eat 2.5 bales of silage each week, to provide the animals with a fibre source in their diet.
Teagasc’s Dr Padraig French was on hand to discuss the cost benefits of out-wintering cattle on kale compared to conventional housing systems. The Head of Livestock Systems at Teagasc Moorepark said it costs in excess of €100/head to provide winter accommodation for cattle. And farmers could potentially make savings by out-wintering cattle on forage crops such as kale over the winter months as is practised very successfully on the Daly’s farm.
Dr Emer Kennedy gave advice on utilising forage crops, appropriate supplementation, and best practise in terms of introducing stock to a crop.
She recommended that farmers should bolus animals prior to grazing to deal with iodine deficiencies, ensure an appropriate fibre source and access to clean water.