Farmers are being advised to take advantage of lower neutral detergent fibre (NDF) levels being reported in this year’s silage analysis by ensuring rumen throughput is maximised to encourage greater milk output.

Bronwen Pihlwret, nutritional advisor at Quality Liquid Feed, said: “This year’s silages are promising, with good dry matter (DM), energy and protein levels, but lower NDF levels are being reported.

"Lower NDF levels present an opportunity to maximise dry matter intakes (DMI) as a lower level of structural fibre and increased intake potential will allow rumen throughput to be increased. This results in a rise in the cow’s potential to eat more home produced forage.”

Ms Pihlwret recommends optimising microbial efficiency. She said: “Research has proven that by replacing some starch with sucrose in the ration, it will help increase NDF digestibility (NDFD) and allows better utilisation of RDP in the grass silage.

“This leads to a more efficient rumen environment, which will undoubtedly encourage rumen throughput and provide an efficient source of fermentable energy for rumen microbes so they’re working to their optimum to fully utilise the nutritional components of the ration.”

When the cows shown in the graph were fed a source of sucrose, the diets were found to have an NDFD percentage of 66.1 percent, which was 5.2 percent more than cows fed starch diets.

An increase in NDFD is reported to increase milk yield. With milk prices rising, there is an opportunity for farmers to increase margins, especially if able to utilise the availability of home-grown forage.