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Introducing alkasystems technology has provided George Watts with Reassurance he will have sufficient high-quality forage in the clamp for the entire housing period…

Introducing alkasystems technology has provided George Watts with reassurance he will have sufficient high-quality forage in the clamp for the entire housing period. “We’ve been making Alkalage for the last three years; it’s there to fill a big forage gap, should we be faced with one,” he says. “To complement our grass silage taken in four multi-cuts, we grow 40 acres of barley for Alkalage which I’d first tried back in 2021 when forage crops were short and the wholecrop had got too mature for traditional wholecrop.

“We’d heard about introducing Home n’ Dry which would not only save, but enhance the crop and boost forage stocks, so we decided to give it a go,” explains George who manages a 220-cow autumn block calving herd based near Penistone, South Yorkshire.

“We found the Alkalage did a good job in the first year, so we’ve had every reason to continue to make it. Forage intakes are sky high. This last winter the cows have eaten up to 16kg forage dry matter per head per day, up to 2kg more than I’d expect which in turn has helped to enhance overall herd performance.

“Rumen acidosis used to be a risk within the herd, however since introducing Alkalage to the diet we haven’t seen any signs of it.” – George Watts

“We’re now able to supplement with a lot of fodder beet – approximately 2.5kg dry matter a head per day, without any issues. With fodder beet being rapidly digestible the fermentation in the rumen speeds up and can lead to increased risk of acidosis, but the alkalage enables the pH in the rumen to be kept higher and the structural fibre helps rumen function, both helping to combat the risk,” he says.

The autumn calving block herd with a focus on milk from forage and grazing is averaging 8,500 litres of which 3,700 litres is from forage. “Milk quality has improved since we started feeding Alkalage as a complementary forage, with butterfat going from 4.4% to 4.7% while protein sits around the 3.5% mark. Herd fertility is at an all-time high, we start serving on 1 November and last season, 75% were PD’d in calf within the first two cycles.”

The Watts’ contractor continues to cut the cereal crop. The forage harvester is equipped with a grain processor to ensure the grain is fully cracked. Harvest date is critical. “The entire crop must be 100% mature for the alkasystem to work – the stems must be yellow brown, the grain hard and heads bent over. If there’s any green material, then we’re aware we have to wait; desiccating the crop isn’t a substitute for a fully ripe crop,” says George. Home n’ Dry pellets are evenly distributed on the harvested crop during clamping and a final layer introduced to the top prior to sheeting.

He adds: “While we’ve no idea what lies ahead for the rest of the summer, with continuing raw material volatility, and the potential challenges of forage and grass availability, Alkalage has proved it can support rumen function, provide a source of forage to balance all grass silages, and help us to optimise home grown feeds.”

To find out more about Alkalage and alkasystems technology, please contact one of our technical specialists listed below, or call the Alka-line on +44(0)1200 613118.

Rob Cockroft
Great Britain Sales & Technical
t. 07748 651906

Rob Smith
Great Britain Sales & Technical
t. 07930 943073

Paul Sayle
International Sales & Technical
t. 07779 698075