Teagasc winter feeding trial
Teagasc Moorepark have five groups of weanling replacement heifers on a winter feeding trial. There are two groups inside on silage and meal and three groups outside on three different forage crops with baled silage. Jack Kennedy reports
There are 35 weanling heifers in each group on the winter feeding trial. Each of the groups went on trial on 10 November.
The plan is that all the heifers will come off the winter feeding trial in mid-February and they will go straight to grazed grass.
All the heifers were born from mid-January to mid-April 2011 and are a mix of breeds but mostly Holstein Friesian. There are 90 Holstein Friesian, 59 Jersey cross, 22 Norwegian reds, and four Montbeliarde cross.
The hybrid kale and rape crop Redstart and rape crops (variety Stego) were sown 23 July.
The burnt-off grass paddocks were disced once and then a one pass machine dropped the seed in.
The kale was sown one month previously on 21 June. When assessed two weeks ago, the kale (Maris Kestrel) was yielding approx 7.5 tons dry matter per hectare, the rape approx 5.5 tons per hectare, and the Redstart approx 4.5 tons per hectare.
The kale yield is slightly disappointing but farm manager Steven Fitzgerald said drought hampered growth in August which has lowered yield from what he would normally expect of around 10 tons per hectare.
Emer Kennedy said the kale is back 3-4 tons per hectare on other years. Indoors the two groups of weanlings are on first cut, 72 DMD, grass silage that is well preserved.
One of the groups is getting 2kg of meal per head per day with ad-lib silage while the other group is getting 1kg per head per day. The meal is 16% crude protein (1.15 UFL) a mix of barley, distillers and citrus.
The heifers seem to be leaving more rape than the other forage crops (eating the leaves and leaving more of the stems).
Steven mentioned that some of the heifers on the forage crops (approx 5/105) were lame in the first week on trial but they were treated and are now perfectly healthy again. The last few weeks have been cold and wet but on visual assessment the heifers on the forage crops already seem to be ahead of the indoor heifers.
They could be described as warm with plenty of flesh at this stage. All heifers have been dosed with the All Trace bolus at the start of the trial.
In terms of performance, the heifers on the forage crops are gaining approx 0.5kg per day versus the indoors groups averaging 0.3-0.4kg/day. As a group, the heifers averaged 215kg at start of trial and 233kg on the last weighing one week ago.
Forage Group 1 -- 35 weanling on a forage crop called 'Redstart' which is a hybrid kale/rape plant. These heifers are consuming about 2kg dry matter of round baled silage each day and 2-3kg dry matter of Redstart each day.
Forage Group 2 -- 35 weanlings on a forage crop called rape. These heifers are also taking in about 2kg of round baled silage dry matter and 2-3kg dry matter of rape each day.
Forage Group 3 -- 35 weanlings on a forage crop called kale. These heifers are also taking in about 2kg of round baled silage dry matter and 2-3kg dry matter of kale each day.
Indoor Group 4 -- 35 weanlings on 72 DM grass silage and 2kg per head per day of an 16% crude protein nut.
Indoors Group 5 -- 35 weanlings on 72 DMD grass silage and 1kg per head per day of an 16% crude protein nut.