WITH the impact of last summer’s dry weather still being felt on dairy units across the country, correct buffer feeding this spring will be critical to maximising cow performance, both through the grazing season and next winter, warns KW nutritionist Charlotte Ward.

“Silage shortages are the biggest concern for most, with the worst affected areas in the south and east of England, Wales and the Midlands,” she said.

“The key is to work out additional feed requirements now, and build a plan to counter any shortfall before new crop silages are ready to feed out.”

Regardless of how well the grazing season starts, there’s always a risk of poor weather, so Ms Ward warns against simply cutting back on buffer feeding and being too reliant on grazing.

“There are plenty of cows still needing to regain condition lost last summer, so underfeeding this spring will only extend the problem, with knock-on effects later in the year,” she said.

“Feeds high in digestible fibre and low in rumen degradable protein (RDP) are ideal. Good options include draff, brewers’ grains and Traffordgold wheat-gluten moist feed, or for a dry feed option, consider a 50:50 mix of soya hulls and palm kernel expeller.

“All will supply more energy than a typical grass silage, and the extra milk that it produces can go a long way towards offsetting the additional feed costs.”