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Our five steps can help you build a successful plan to manage fodder shortages and our information on alternative fibre sources can help you choose other sources when fodder availability is reduced.

Managing fodder shortages

High demand and successive years of low production has created a fodder supply shortage, creating headaches for farmers sourcing feed.

When fodder availability, or more precisely long fibre, is reduced, you may be tempted to buy whatever feed is available. While there are numerous fodder sources suitable for dairy stock, they vary in nutritive value, digestibility, effective fibre value, and may present risks such as ruminal acidosis, mycotoxins and chemical residues (e.g. care is need when using by-products such as grape marc).

View our page on alternative fibre sources for more information.

Planning for what lies ahead is one of the most important skills a successful dairy farmer can have. This includes preparing for lean years.

If you don't have an effective strategy to manage fodder shortages, Dairy Australia has put together the following five steps to help you deal with future shortages which you can view further down this page:

  • Step1: Calculate your monthly feed demand and feed deficit.
  • Step2: Calculate your bought-in feed requirement for each month.
  • Step 3: Buy feeds.
  • Step 4: Store feeds.
  • Step 5: Feed diet to herd.

More information

Managing a fodder shortage (PDF, 307KB)

Basic guide and examples for the five steps to successfully managing fodder shortages, including:

  • Five tips for success in detail
  • Calculation example
  • Alternative fibre sources

    Alternative fibre sources

    When you have limited pasture and reduced fodder supplies, you might need to consider using alternative fibre options  some of which you might not have used before.

    Many alternative fibre sources are suitable for feeding to dairy stock provided they are supplemented with high-energy feeds and protein sources as part of a balanced diet.

    These vary widely in nutritive value, digestibility, effective fibre value, and may present risks such as ruminal acidosis, mycotoxins and chemical residues. So you need to be informed before you go ahead.

    What is fibre?

    Fibre is an essential ingredient in the diets of ruminant animals such as dairy cattle. It supplies energy, maintains normal, healthy rumen function, and in cows is utilised to produce milk fat.

    How is fibre measured?

    The most commonly used chemical measure of the fibre content of a feed or a diet is Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF).

    What is effective fibre value?

    The ˜effective fibre value™ of a feed or diet refers to the ability of a feed to stimulate chewing activity and production of saliva. Saliva contains buffers, which maintain the cow'™s ruminal pH in the right range for growing rumen microbes between 6.2 and 6.6.

    If there is not enough long or ˜effective™ fibre, there will not be enough chewing during eating and ruminating, and therefore not enough saliva produced. This can lead to a drop in ruminal pH and risk of ruminal acidosis.

    More information

    Facts on alternative fibre sources (PDF, 791KB)

    Fibre is an essential ingredient in the diets of ruminant animals such as dairy cattle. It supplies energy, maintains normal, healthy rumen function, and in cows is utilised to produce milk fat.

    The most commonly used chemical measure of the fibre content of a feed or a diet is Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF).
    The ˜effective fibre value™ of a feed or a diet is also critical. It refers to the ability of a feed to stimulate chewing activity and production of saliva, which contains buffers, which maintain the cow'™s ruminal pH in the optimal range for growth of rumen microbes between 6.2 and 6.6.

    If there is not enough long or ˜effective™ fibre, there will not be enough chewing during eating and ruminating, and therefore not enough saliva produced, leading to a drop in ruminal pH and increased risk of ruminal acidosis.

    Cattle can suffer from two forms of ruminal acidosis:

    ˜Sub-acute ruminal acidosis™ (SARA), where the ruminal pH is in the range 6 to 5.5. (Cows may not appear sick, but some will be off feed, have mild milk fat depression and be scouring).

    "Lactic acidosis where the ruminal pH is below 5.5, will be noticeably sick. (Many cows will be off their feed, down in their milk, lame and scouring. This may then progress to ˜downer cow™ syndrome and death).

    NDF intake should ideally be about 35 to 40% of total daily dry matter intake, with 75% of the fibre sources in the diet having a fibre length greater than 1.5 cm.

    Grape marc benefits and risks

    Grape marc can be a valuable source of supplementary nutrition for dairy cows. Victorian Government research has linked the feeding of stems, seeds and skins from wine grapes with potential impacts on methane reduction and milk production. But it can come with risks, which you need to fully understand and manage.

    A by-product of the wine industry, grape marc is made up of skins and seeds. It may also contain residues of agricultural chemicals such as pest and fungal control sprays. Feeding contaminated grape marc to dairy cows then risks the residues being transferred into the milk.

    Like all sources of purchased stock feed, you should verify the feed's™ suitability by getting vendor declarations or buying from a FeedSafe® accredited stock feed supplier.

    If you can'™t verify the chemical residue status of a feed and/or can'™t get a commodity vendor declaration, the best practice is to avoid using it as stock feed.

    More information

    Grape marc as a source of stock feed (PDF, 225KB)

    As a by- product of the wine industry, grape marc, made up of skins and seeds presents a risk of containing residues of agricultural chemicals. This is due to the use of sprays in the vineyards to control pests and fungal diseases on the grapes. The feeding of contaminated grape marc to dairy cows in turn presents a risk of the residues being transferred into the milk (and meat) supply.

    Raw or unprocessed grape marc is considered to present a particularly high residue risk. Grape marc supplied through reputable feed companies will be processed using steam distillation which not only removes excess alcohol and tartaric acid, but is known to reduce (but not remove) the concentration of chemical resides in the grape marc.

  • Step 1 Calculate monthly feed

    Step 1 - Calculate monthly feed

    Key considerations

    • Accurate head count
    • Realistic ME requirements of different classes of stock
    • Estimate of pasture supply available on your farm
    • Do a feed budget to estimate feed requirements for all stock

    More information

    Plan for profit - feed budgeting (PDF, 221KB)

    Provides steps and tables for calculating your feed budget and feed deficit for each month.

  • Step 2 Calculate bought in feed

    Step 2 - Calculate bought in feed

    Closing your feed gap - key considerations

    • Home-grown pasture and crops
    • Feeding more grain/concentrates safely
    • Extending forage reserves with high fibre by-products
    • Drying off early

    More information

    Closing your feed gap (PDF, 245KB)

    Information includes urea costs, paddock management, high fibre by-products, and dry cows.

    Supplementary forages and forage extenders available - key considerations

    • Feed market information
    • Cost / tonne and comparative $ value per unit energy and protein
    • Limits to recommended daily feeding rates for specific feeds
    • Risks eg. mycotoxins, chemical residues

    More information  

    Hay and grain report

    Plan for profit - feed budgeting (PDF, 330KB)

    Information on how much feed you need to buy and making sure you cover the feed requirements of all your stock.

    A to Z of fibre sources (PDF, 407KB)

    Under drought conditions alternative fibre sources might need to be considered. This pdf provides a list of fibre sources suitable for dairy stock.

    Facts on alternative fibre sources (PDF, 771KB)

    Many alternative fibre sources are suitable for feeding to dairy stock provided they are supplemented with high energy feeds and protein sources as part of a balanced diet. They vary widely in nutritive value, digestibility, effective fibre value, and may present risks such as ruminal acidosis, mycotoxins and
    chemical residues.

    Diet formulation - key considerations

    • Meeting cows daily energy and protein requirements for target milk production level within their appetite limit
    • Ensuring adequate effective fibre for good rumen function
    • Feed additives

    More information

    Feed value varies in different feeds (PDF, 293KB)

    Nutritional values vary due to growing conditions and how feed is harvested, conserved or manufactured. Hays, silages and co-products are particularly variable. This pdf includes information on values including DM (dry matter), ME (metabolisable energy), CP (crude protein), and NDF (neutral detergent fibre).

    Feed additives (PDF, 171KB)

    Feed additives are for prevention, not treatment. You miss out on the benefits if the additive dose rates in your feed aren'™t right for your daily per cow feeding rate. Find out the facts and recommended feeding rates of additives.

    Mini Ration Check tool (external link)

    Mini Ration Check can be used by dairy producers to check the nutrition status of their dairy herd, and for dairy advisers to give general advice around the feeding of dairy herds.

    Feed wastage - key considerations

    Making realistic allowances based on your feeding system

    More information

    Feed - don't waste it (PDF, 348KB)

    This pdf provides information to help you make realistic allowances for feed wastage when developing you feed budget.

  • Step 3 Buy feeds

    Step 3 - Buy feeds

    Key considerations

    What can you afford to pay (break-even and target feed prices)

    More information

    Plan for profit - what can you afford to pay (PDF, 316KB)

    What price could you afford to pay for feed and still achieve a reasonable profit?

    Checking quality of feed on offer - key considerations

    • Physical characteristics by visual assessment
    • Nutritional content using feed analysis

    More information

    Don't gamble with feed quality (PDF, 454KB)

    Deals with some of the critical questions including knowing what you'™re buying and whether the feed is good value for money.

    Visit our feed lab testing page.

    Feed report tool

    This web-based tool helps you turn the results you receive from your feed laboratory for each feed sample analysed into decisions and actions on your farm

    Securing feed supply with a written agreement / contract

    More information

    Visit our page on feed contracts.

    GTA Contract Confirmation form (PDF, 178KB)

    Fodder vendor declaration form (PDF, 185KB)

  • Step 4 Store feeds

    Step 4 - Store feeds

    If you haven'™t bought different feed ingredients before, it can be a daunting task.

    Where do you find them? How do you work out a good deal when you see one?

    What do you do with them once the truck arrives?

    The basics are still the same as buying fodder and grain/concentrates:

    • Know what'™s in the feed before you buy it.
    • Get a feed test.
    • Store it in a way that you minimise spoilage and wastage
    • Make sure the ingredients fit your Flexible Feeding System
    • Be aware of any potential hazards with certain types of feeds

    More information

    Flexible feeding systems: filling the pantry (PDF, 261KB)

    Helps you do the calculations required to buy wisely and gives you options for wet and dry storage facilties.

  • Step 5 Feed diet to herd

    Step 5 - Feed diet to herd

    Mixing and delivering feed to the herd - key considerations

    • Feeding infrastructure
    • Equipment for mixing & feeding out

    More information

    Plan for growth - manage risk (PDF, 347KB)

    Can you afford to waste feed? Start by looking at simple feeding options but think ahead.

    Mixing and delivering feed (PDF, 489KB)

    Your equipment should help you achieve a higher Milk Income less Purchased Feed Cost, but any purchases could increase your finance and capital costs. Getting the balance right means understanding the capability of different mixing and delivery systems.

    Assessing the herd's risk of developing acidosis

    More information

    Assessing your risk of acidosis (PDF, 181KB)

    Helps you to assess your risk. Use in conjunction with the Risk Assessment Grid.

    Risk assessment grid: Factors affecting rumen function and risk of acidosis (PDF, 151KB)

    Use this Risk Assessment Grid to make sure you are not inadvertently putting your operation at high risk.

    Visual check for early detection of rumen problems

    More information

    Effective feeding - quick checks (PDF, 346KB)

    A stable rumen environment is important to reducing the risk of acidosis and allowing cows to produce milk well. Regular observations are valuable if you pay attention to the details, record the information and are ready to act when changes occur.

    Impacts of your feeding decisions

    More information

    The impact of your feeding decisions during a fodder shortage (PDF, 213KB)

    There are many things you may decide to do to get through a fodder shortage. This pdf will help you with feeding decisions for all your stock.

    Feed wastage

    More information

    Feed - don'™t waste it (PDF, 348KB)

    Provides tips on how to deal with feed losses that occur during delivery, storage, mixing of diets, and feed out to cows.

    Managing effluent

    More information

    Managing effluent (PDF, 208KB)

    Having a Flexible Feeding System will mean more cows in a smaller area for a longer period of time each day than in a pasture-based system. This pdf helps you put into place an effective system for handling solid and liquid effluent.

    Herd health problems

    More information

    Healthy cows (PDF, 234KB)

    Provides information to help you manage the risk of herd health that can arise from new feeds, diets, feeding practices and smaller feed-out areas.

Major Initiatives

Focus Farms

Dairy Australia has established a network of Focus Farms to support farmer decision making.

DairyBase

DairyBase is a web-based tool that enables dairy farmers to measure and compare their farm business performance over time.

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