Many approaches to high-forage diets
Forages are the foundation for nutritionally sound, profitable, and rumen-healthy rations. When Randy Shaver with the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed high-producing Wisconsin herds, he calculated that forages provided 75% of the total ration neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and 85% of the physically effective NDF in these herds. Forages also provided 45% of the crude protein, 40% of starch, 55% of nonfiber carbohydrates, and 50% of the energy in the rations. The importance of forages to stimulate chewing, rumination, and rumen fermentation is well understood.
A 2017 survey of feed industry professionals found 91% of the respondents indicated that ration forage levels had been on the rise in the last 10 to 15 years. Herds feeding 60% to 70% forage were 32% of the responses. Herds feeding over 70% forages represented 12% of the responses. The benefits of feeding higher forage rations included higher milk components and production, lower purchased feed costs, enhanced animal health, and improved profitability.
A survey of six high-producing Wisconsin herds was conducted in 1997. These herds averaged 31,179 pounds of milk with an average of 45% forage in the ration (range was 31% to 56%). Alfalfa silage was 65% of the forage fed while corn silage was 23%. This survey was repeated using five herds in 2010. These herds averaged 34,247 pounds of milk and fed 54% of the ration as forage (range was 50% to 60%). Corn silage was 49% of the forage fed while alfalfa silage was 47%. The boost in corn silage fed fits with changes in cropping practices during this period.
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Feb. 1, 2023
By Larry Chase