Why is forage so important for my cows?

Forage provides the foundation for animal nutrition on a farm. The quality and quantity of forage has a direct effect on the performance of your animals. If the maize and grass silage is substandard, even the most balanced feed allowance will not produce the expected results, such as high milk yields in dairy cows or daily weight gains in livestock for the meat industry. Forage should make up at least 50% of the dry matter in the nutritional allowance. If these components are absent or in short supply, this can quickly lead to a drop in milk yields and to health problems.

Every farmer knows that it is difficult to restore good performance once cows have experienced a fall in productivity. It takes several weeks for a cow to raise her lactation level or return to her previous level. That is why structured field management is so important for maize, grass and lucerne.


What are the risks of insufficient forage?

It is not uncommon for our JOSERA experts to notice that farmers are running out of silage a few weeks before the planned cutting time for grass or maize. Farmers then start to feed the animals with fresh grass, which is susceptible to heating. These changes have very detrimental effects for the cows.


Insufficient forage can lead to a number of problems, e.g.

  • reduced dry matter intake
  • decrease in fertility
  • increased risk of inflammation
  • higher levels of somatic cells in the milk
  • diarrhoea, metabolic diseases
  • lower profitability for the herd


How can I prevent basic feed shortages?

A lack of forage should be prevented. If possible, you should increase the area under cultivation by reducing the area given over to cereals or by buying more land. Of course, it is not always possible to take such measures, so in some cases the herd size should be reduced by selling the animals with the poorest performance. You can also consult your feed advisor for assistance. They will help you plan your feed allowance. You should ensure 0.5 ha of arable land is available per cow, and manage the land carefully so there is sufficient silage to last two months beyond the planned cutting date, because the ensiling process takes six to eight weeks.


What is the best way to plan the quantity of forage?

When planning the quantity of forage, you should take into account the yield per hectare, the difference between raw and ensiled quantities, and the storage losses.

  1. First calculate the basic yield:
    For example, if you achieve a yield of 100 tonnes of fresh mass, you will realistically obtain 40 tonnes (at 40% DM) of grass silage. According to estimates, 1 ha of grassland yields 45 to 90 tonnes of fresh matter. Around 60-70 tonnes of fresh matter can be obtained from 1 ha of maize. However, it is important to remember that these are only estimates and the ultimate quantity will depend on other factors such as the soil and the quality of the seed.
  2. You should also remember that the weather has an influence on forage quantities. Unfortunately, weather events such as drought or flooding are another key factor that influences the amount of forage. Consequently, farmers should always plan to have more rather than less forage. We recommend allowing for a two-month surplus and at least 30-40% storage losses.
  3. Consider the planned size of your herd. Your plans should factor in how many cows you will have in a year — including heifers, bulls and dry cows — and how much feed they consume.

In summary, planning basic feed is crucial for efficient farm management.

Forage can also be optimised by ensuring a balanced feed allowance and by tweaking the silage composition and carefully planning harvesting dates.

In addition, efficient harvest management, precise calculations and the use of effective silage inoculants can minimise losses and ensure high feed quality. Take a look at our range of Josilac silage inoculants, which effectively reduce negative side effects and promote optimum silage production.

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