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Maximising Diets with Molasses

Following on from a mild winter during which grass growth didn’t completely stop growing, we have faced a wet and warm summer which has delivered variable silage conditions and initial analyses results. Higher fibres however will challenge intakes, where molasses could play a key role.

The initial silage analysis results for early first cuts are:

  • Increased levels of Lignin.
  • Higher levels of NDF.
  • Significantly lower levels of Sugar.
  • Metabolisable Energy (ME) is lower than last year.
  • Protein levels are lower than last years – both crude protein and fermentable protein.

How will silage results impact diets and how can molasses help?

Higher levels of lignin and NDF in the silage will lead to lower dry matter intakes as a result of slower rumen digestion plus reduced Rumen Fermentable Carbohydrates (RFC) and protein levels, ultimately leading to a drop in milk production. Using a molasses blend in the diet will add a source of RFC’S, in the form of sucrose (sugars) which break down in the rumen within two hours of feeding, therefore helping to balance the rumen, driving volatile fatty acid production to support higher levels of forage intake by increasing the breakdown of fibrous forages quicker and increasing palatability. Another key point to consider is the sugar gap. A lactating cow requires 6-8% sugar in their diet, so with the significantly lower sugar levels in this years silages there is likely to be a substantial gap within the diet. Molasses, however, are an excellent source of sugar for ruminants as they are easily digestible, cost effective and are also high in 6-carbon sugars (Sucrose and Glucose).

Furthermore, given the reduced fermentable proteins in silage, consideration should be given to feeding molasses with regulated release proteins to balance the diets, with a multitude of protein levels to suit different diets there really is an option for every farm. In summary, with the feed markets being volatile and poorer milk prices the pressure is on to find the most cost effective way to utilise forage to keep milk production strong, and despite market movements molasses remain competitively priced per unit of sugar and protein.

NWF Agriculture, in partnership with ED&F Mann, can supply bulk, mini bulk and tank options to help make molasses work for you.

By NWF Regional Sales Executive, Kim Stuart.

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