Low milk prices last year led Yorkshire dairy farmers, Gary & Steven Swires, to question the inclusion of yeast in their dairy cow rations, despite having fed yeast for a long time.
“It is easy to see ration additives such as yeast probiotic as ‘magic dust’ and with milk prices under such pressure we thought about stripping back all inclusions to save money,” Gary explained. “But we are quite taken with Actisaf® yeast probiotic – it really does seem to make a difference – so we resisted removing it.”
Gary and Steven farm around 750 acres at High Moor Farm near Harrogate. They have around 400 cows calving all year around, and rear all young stock, with heifer replacements calving at around 24 months and all other cattle being sold at around 20 months of age as store cattle.
The brothers used to grow maize and wholecrop silage but, with the farm extending up to 700 ft. above sea level, those crops could prove unreliable and, consequently, weren’t very cost effective. As a result, they now run a simple ration based around three cuts of good quality grass silage, with some red clover/hybrid grass mixtures. “Grass silage is good for milk quality and the simpler system suits our land. Cows average around 9,000 litres/year with milk composition averaging 4.30 per cent butterfat and 3.25 per cent protein.”
So, what makes Gary and Steven so confident that Actisaf® is worth including, even when low returns put pressure on costs?
“We include Actisaf® in our blend and last year we changed blend and that meant no more Actisaf®,” Gary explained. “Shortly after the change our milk quality dropped from 4.3 per cent butterfat to 3.8 per cent butterfat, which was a concern. We decided to go back on Actisaf® to try to stabilise milk composition. Butterfat returned to the previous level, which was great, and this seemed to confirm a strong correlation between Actisaf® inclusion and milk quality. I don’t think we’ll be taking it out again.”