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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                     July 2003  

Hi Folks,

            Summer has finally made it, actually waiting to just about the exact date of the solstice. Crops are ‘jumping’ with the humidity and warmth. But – first cutting was essentially all ensiled by most area farmers due to the cool, wet conditions up through mid-June. I am wondering how the cows will perform on all the baleage that will be fed from those white “marshmallows” and “snakes” that I see everywhere.

            Here are a few handy tips regarding baleage feeding as part of your ration (thanks to Ken Muckenfess of KOW Consulting Associates). Baleage, due to its moisture, has less effective fiber and in a sense is partly digested. This will decrease cud chewing activity, which decreases the amount of bicarb in the cow’s system since there is less saliva produced with less rumination activity. Therefore, you need to still feed dry hay, even though there isn’t much until the 2nd cutting is in the barn (which seems to be happening this week). Generally, if you are grazing intensively and not using corn silage, at least 5 lbs. of dry hay per cow daily will give an effective fiber mat in the rumen and promote cud chewing. In this situation, you can feed as much baleage as you want. If you are also feeding corn silage, try to feed 2 lbs. of dry hay for every 5 lbs. of corn silage fed.

            As far as the quality of baleage, it is better to put up a wetter grass baleage than have it dry down, get rained on and then ensile it. If it is too dry, you may get bad fermentation and white mold which may lead to other molds and problems. In other words, if you cut a grassy field today, you can ensile it the next. And for all you folks I saw actively stuffing bags in the rain, if the quality was good going in, the extra wetness during ensiling shouldn’t affect it much.

            But if the quality of crop was simply poor/bad when it got ensiled, you may have some major problems when you open up the bag to feed it out – especially if there was excess moisture in the bottom areas of the bag. Over the last few years, we (livestock veterinarians) have seen sporadic outbreaks of botulism in cattle. Botulism is historically known to mainly affect horses since they are extremely sensitive to it. But if a crop that is ready to be baled gets rained on once or twice and then is ensiled and the pH is greater than 4.5 (due to improper fermentation), botulism spores may be present and in sufficient quantity to do harm to cattle. Usually molds will be observable as well – and that should tip you off that all is not well. Signs of botulism include going off-feed, not chewing cud, dullness of expression, general weakness and finally going down and not being able to rise. Botulism is suspected especially if pulling out the tongue and the cow or horse will not retract it as they normally do. Hopefully, no one will experience this in their herd.

            If you do have poor quality or moldy feed coming out of the agbags, you will need to use some kind of binder/adsorbent to let the toxins pass through the cow instead of her absorbing them. The folks at KOW nutrition have “CS buffer” which is effective to bind molds and mycotoxins (it also has Agri-Dynamics’ Dyna-Min). But, as KOW nutrition strongly asserts: “There is no magic in a bag to make up for bad management decisions”. In other words, try to put up good feeds and feed appropriate amounts of effective fiber to keep the cow’s rumen strong and working well. Never scrimp on fiber!

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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