Could concentrates be an economic way of conserving forage?

December 21, 2017

The most important component in all ruminants diet is forage, it provides a good energy source and also allows for correct rumen function. Many rations will be formulated to have a forage level of 40% DMI. 

Many dairy farmers will be facing a potential forage shortfall and poorer silage this winter, therefore they need to plan carefully in the forth coming months to ensure they make the best use of forage stocks.

A wet summer tampered with grazing and harvest resulting in livestock being housed earlier this year, this also adds to the pressure of forage stock being in short supply. To balance forage shortage and increase NDF in a ration, straw can be an additional extra to help. However this year straw is also in short supply. This has resulted in a significant increase in the price, whereby straw is as high as £120/tonne delivered.

However, there are other ways to improve your ration, and save forage this winter. The use of a well balanced diet with concentrates could help to achieve this whilst maintaining litres.


Including straw into the lactating cow TMR can increase the effective fibre within the ration for improved rumination. Hence, during the shortage of silage, straw can be an additional extra within the TMR, however the inclusion is limited to avoid reducing intake or decreasing the energy density of the TMR for lactating cows. Both of these factors can have a detrimental effect on production.


Concentrates can help to provide a well balanced diet, complementing your forage. They can help to provide the essential extra energy to support production levels. Concentrates balanced along side forages can result in efficient rumen digestion, greater cow productivity and more cost-effective herd performance.

Is it worth while using more concentrates than straw this year to help with the shortage of silage?

The tables below helps to clarify this :

Comparison of Cost between Straw and Concentrates



2.35kg fed @ £120 = £1,692

2.27kg fed @ £220 = £2,996.40

Difference between = £1,304.40

(*Calculation based on 200 milking cows)

From the table above straw may seem more favourable due to price, however straw does lack in energy, which in turn reduces the energy within a ration, thus reducing litres.

Difference in Energy between Straw and Concentrates





ME: 7.0 MJ

ME: 13.0 MJ

= 3.16l

= 5.68l

Difference = 2.52l

The result of using straw would equate to a loss of 2.52l in turn a loss of £4,233.60 per month (*Calculation based on 200 milking cows @ 28p/l). If you take into account the cost concentrates cost £2,996.40, the extra milk will equate to a gross of £1,237.20.

In conclusion from the extra litres provided from feeding concentrates within a balanced diet, this would be a more economically viable option than feeding straw this winter.

Holly Dyer

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