Click to contact us or call 02476 353537

Holistic Approach To Forage Management Maximises Herd Performance

Adopting a holistic approach to forage management based on targeted herd
performance will generate significant performance and financial benefits on most
dairy farms by achieving greater synergy between individual ration components,
according to Nickerson Direct, the UK’s only specialist supplier of seed
directly from breeder to farmer.

“Modern forages require modern management techniques to obtain the best from
them, so producers should focus on growing crops which work well together,”
emphasises Simon Broddle, the company’s Forages Manager. “Planning an overall
forage strategy will allow a much more pro-active approach to herd management,
which will help to prevent health problems from occurring and avoid the need to
resort to costly, time-consuming ‘fire brigade’ tactics to deal with them.

“Traditionally, farmers have often produced a mismatch of different forage
products, including silage, grazed grass, maize and fodder crops. Only after
these have been harvested and analysed do many consider how to feed them,
resulting in a disjointed approach to herd nutrition and sub-optimal results.

“The starting point for a more coherent strategy is to decide what you want to
achieve in terms of herd performance. This will allow you to calculate your
forage requirements and develop a cropping plan based on forages which
complement one another rather than being ‘antagonistic’, which occurs when two
forages contribute to the same dietary requirement. Maize and high-quality grass
are good examples, while late-cut grass and wholecrop exemplify silages which
offer high fibre and low ME.

“Maize is creating great interest because of its potential to produce very high-
quality forage. Where grass protein is around 80% rumen degradable, maize is
perfectly suited to ruminant animals. Its starch quality means that it feeds the
whole digestive system, from the rumen to hind gut, while its energy feeds the
entire digestive system. Newer varieties of maize such as LG Beethoven are bred
to ‘stay greener’, which enables a much longer chop length, creates a more
‘open’ diet and improves intakes.

“Maize feeds well in almost any circumstances, but using a higher-fibre grass
which is cut slightly later or an Italian ryegrass-based ley such as Nickerson’s
‘Green Circle’ will improve intakes and ruminant function as well as reducing
the need for straw. Go one step further by using lucerne and you’ll have the
most synergistic base diet possible under UK conditions.

“Quantifying the potential performance and profitability gains from a more
joined-up approach to forage management is difficult, because every farm is
individual and has a different approach. However, designing a cropping plan in
which all forages complement each other is logical. The process should be
ongoing and encompass every conceivable factor, from breed, calving pattern,
system, housing and type of milk contract to assessment of swards, potential
yields, weather, harvest dates and subsequent cropping.

“It takes just 24 hours or so to harvest most forage crops but the consequences
of any mistakes or shortcuts will last 250 – 300 days, so it’s vital to get
things right when it matters most! Every farm is different and although there’s
no ‘one size fits all’ solution profitability depends on fastidious attention to
detail at every stage. Poor forages create a host of problems, so getting that
aspect right will improve herd performance and make every other aspect of
management much easier.”

Simon Broddle, Forage Manager, Nickerson UK Ltd can be contacted on 01858
432945, or 07850 811247, email
or go to

    Nickerson Direct ( is part of Nickerson, the international name
for the arable crops business of Limagrain Verneuil Holding, a subsidiary of
Group Limagrain, the largest plant breeding and seed development company in the

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * great opportunity to promote your business to our dedicated readership of farmers, landowners, estate managers and associated agricultural professionals.
Contact us today on 02476 353537 and let's work together to drive your business forward.