Getting the most from grazing will be a priority this spring, so while it will be important to ensure cows are given every opportunity to maximise grass intakes and utilise it effectively, it also means attention needs to be paid to the formulation and delivery of buffer feeds.

Georgina Chapman, ofED&F Man, says intakes will be influenced by grass quality, so it is important to feed grass at the most nutritious three-leaf stage and avoid overmature grass which can be more of an issue as the season progresses.

Feed value

But, she adds, very early-season grass can also have a lower feed value.

“Sugar and protein contents typically only begin to peak from late April onwards, while fibre can be higher if the sward contains overwintered material that has the potential to depress intakes.”

According to Grasswatch, grazing in early April last year was only worth between maintenance+5 to maintenance+10 litres depending on the region.

“Grazing activity is also a key factor in determining grazing intakes. The amount of time cows spend grazing, and therefore their intakes, increase as the number of daylight hours extend. All these factors influence how the formulation of buffer feeds is optimised, particularly in early season.”

Ms Chapman says the role of buffer feeds is to complement grazed grass and balance nutrient supply without compromising grazing intakes.

Anything that displaces grazing from the total diet, whether

a buffer or compounds, has a negative effect on margins.

A correctly formulated buffer can help improve grass utilisation by stimulating the rumen microbes to digest feed more efficiently. She adds that silages normally form the basis of buffer feeds but is concerned that forage shortages may mean this is not possible this year.