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The cows go out and butterfats plummet. It's a picture repeated across the country every year. But is it worth doing anything to maintain butterfats, and if so what? David Woodcock, Technical Business Manager with Optivite considers the options.

As ever at this time of year, thoughts turn to what should be done, if anything, to boost butterfat levels at grazing. Nationally we usually see a 0.4% fall in butterfat levels. In some herds the decline can be as much as 1%. There is no doubt that butterfat is increasingly becoming a problem area for those in the EU responsible for managing the overall milk market. Globally butterfat prices continue to fall on the commodity markets, which is a growing concern.

However many UK milk contracts still include both bonuses and deductions dependent on butterfat levels. Dairy farmers looking to maximise returns from their contract must keep a close eye on butterfats. The first stage in deciding whether it would make sense to try and maintain fats at grass is to understand the terms of your milk contract. If the contract will reward high butterfats or penalise low levels, then it is worth considering what the options are to maintain or increase levels. If there is no milk price advantage, then don't incur extra costs chasing something you won't get paid for.

If it makes sense to take nutritional action to influence butterfats, the next stage is to look at what has happened historically on your farm. What are fat levels at turnout and by how much do they usually fall? What are fat percentages now and how do they compare to previous years? It may be that fat levels are higher than usual now and even if you experience a typical grazing depression you will still exceed the deduction threshold.

Once you understand the extent of the possible problem it is time to consider what action can be taken. There are two crucial points that must be remembered. The first is that approximately half of a cow's milk fat production comes from her being able to convert the end products of rumen fermentation into milk fat. The remainder of the butterfat produced comes from fats fed in the diet, or from the mobilisation of body reserves.

If you are on a constituent milk contract - don't be penalised

The second vital point to remember is that feeding dietary supplements will have little effect if the basic rumen fermentation is incorrect. Therefore the starting point to achieve higher fats at turnout is the rumen.

To achieve high levels of fat production, the diet needs to encourage a fermentation, which results in high levels of acetic, and butyric acid, which are the precursors for milk fat. This in turns requires a diet high in structural fibre and low in sugars. This is exactly the reverse of what we find in spring grazing.

The other problem is that the fermentation encouraged by high grass intakes can lead to an acidic rumen, which can further inhibit fibre digestion. If you want to increase grazing butterfats the first stage must be to ensure an adequate supply of structural fibre to help control rumen pH and increase the supply of butterfat precursors.

Check the fibre levels in all supplementary feeds and consider changing to a HDF concentrate or feeding beet pulp. The other option is to hold cows back on a winter ration for part of the day. Bear in mind that any significant supplementary feeding will reduce grazing intakes and you may need to tighten stocking rates.

The other way to boost fat production is to increase the supply of fat fed in the diet but care needs to be taken to feed the right sort of fat because different fats have different effects in the cow. Some can create an oil slick in the rumen, which reduces fibre digestion and dry matter intakes.

Fats based on calcium soaps are shown to be effective in raising milk yield but not fat percent. The best fats for improving milk fat contain a high proportion of palmitic acid (C16 fats), which is readily utilised by the cow and efficiently diverted to the udder.

If you have studied your milk contract and calculated that a butterfat increase would be financially beneficial, then CS plus will undoubtedly be the product to use.

We have a limited tonnage of CS Plus bought very well and under the current market price. Ring the office today 01948 661602 to avoid disappointment before stocks are gone.


EXCLUSIVE TO GP FEEDS CS PLUS (maintains condition score) is a specially formulated fatty acid blend processed with a selected glucose preparation into a free flowing dust-free meal.

CS PLUS has been designed for raising BUTTERFATS in particular, whilst improving milk yield, maintaining cow condition and helping with fertility.

The blend of protected and slow release fatty acids - C16, has been put together to maximize synergistic effects on net energy yield and milk quality. The unsaturated: saturated ratio is close to 3:1.

The glucose blend enhances liver function and hormonal, nervous and enzymic systems to increase overall animal performance. More>>

Market Report

Soya (Argentnian): Blockades of ports and roads etc are back on as we go to print. This will affect the market short term (as it has done before). If you require soya on the spot, we would advise you to buy now. Prices have come back off the all time high, but in such a volatile market anything can happen.

Rapemeal: Prices for August/October have come off to a more realistic price. Again as above, supply and demand could put the price of Rapemeal up, if the supply of Soya becomes tight.

Maize Gluten: Some US Gluten is available ex Liverpool for June. Ring the office for prices, depending on load size and delivery area. Guide price £184/t.

Non GM Gluten (European) now available for June/April 2009. Guide prices £188 - £194/t. Again prices depending on load size and delivery area. For a firm price please contact the office.

Southern French Maize: We have supplies available now through to April 2009. We can offer whole, rolled or a coarse ground meal. We have sold a good tonnage for the summer and it is working extremely well on farm, as an excellent source of slow release energy. In the rolled and coarse ground form it is also a good source of by-pass starch. Ring the office for up to date prices, as this product is priced in Euros and prices can change on a daily basis.

Oatfeed Meal: We can now offer this product for a limited period only. If you have are interested in this product please contact the office. Guide price £115/t depending on load size and delivery area.

Wheatfeed Pellets: Limited tonnage available for the spot market. Guide price £120/t depending on load size and delivery area. Please ring the office for upto date prices.

Sugar beet: Tonnage for the summer is beginning to look tight, with British product in short supply. There will be some product available for the summer but it is likely to be Imported product from Europe. Here at GP Feeds we have limited BRITISH stock available - call the office on 01948 661602 for availability and up to date prices.

Molasses: Demand for this cost effective feed is still high. Although prices have risen we still have very advantagous prices - call the office and speak to Gareth on 01948 661602 about your requirements. Tank schemes still available too.

Compounds: As expected prices of compounds have risen. Talk to us today about our top quality products. Fixed prices available from June to August, or further if you so wish. Pick up that phone and give us a call on 01948 661602.

Blends: We can make a blend to suit your needs, using only quality raw materials that will not change without your say so. We also have our own fixed GPF range of blends which many of our blend customers are successfully using.

Note: All prices quoted are estimates and are subject to market change. For the best and up to date prices contact the office on 01948 661602 and speak to Gareth.


Market Update

The large sugar cane crop last year saw molasses prices ease whilst other commodities such as wheat went up dramatically; this led to a significant increase in molasses use in both the farm and feed markets across Europe.

Since the start of 2008 we have seen the effect of this increase in sales leading to higher prices being paid by exporters to meet the demand. The price has been further stimulated by increases in local domestic use for ethanol production and interest from new markets. The latter has primarily come from buyers looking for a suitable replacement for beet molasses as the availability of this material going forward has been reduced by the structural changes made to the EU sugar regime. The outlook for cane molasses going forward is that prices will remain firm as demand will stay strong although some of the increase in costs should be offset by the strength of the sterling against the dollar.

Don't Forget The Sugars This Summer!

The need for sugars in the feed ration will be decreasing over the coming weeks as cows are put out to pasture and grass comes to the fore of the diet. However it is important to remember that grass quality decreases the further we get into summer as the stem to leaf ratio changes resulting in lower sugars and less energy. Even on good quality grazing grass the ME could drop by as much as 1-2 MJ/kg from spring to summer.

However, our molasses supplier TATE & LYLE can help us by supplementing one of our liquids into your herd's diet via a buffer feed. You can remedy the drop in sugars and ensure your high yielding animals continue to get the same energy intake. We recommend our energy rich products TATE & LYLE Cane Molasses, Caneflow and MolaFerm XL as ideal buffer liquids for grazing TMRs this summer.

As many of you will recall this time last year we recommended that you look at the use of molasses, and many of you did with great results and cost savings. We still believe molasses are a product to be considered. Call us today for a competitive quote on a very cost effective form of energy.

Remember - molasses perform various important roles with rations

  • Promotes high dry matter intakes with no substitution effect
  • Improves rumen fermentation
  • Excellent source of fermentable energy, making it suitable to balance rapidly digested protein sources, such as those contained in grass
  • Binds dusty ingredients and minimises waste
  • Highly palatable

Don't have a molasses tank? Don't worry deals are available to suit all needs - call us to discuss your requirements.

So give us a call today to discuss your requirements on 01948 661602.


12t molasses tank & stand. 3 Years old and in excellent condition. For more information contact Gareth on 01948 661602

Minerals - A Mine Field

As we move forward into the grazing season and try to look forward to see what the market will do over the coming months, we need to look at where we have come from over the last six months.

At the start of our winter feeding regime no one could foresee where the world market would take us i.e. shortage of products, oil cost, shipping charges, and not least China and India growing at an alarming rate. All these factors, coupled with the Pound falling in value against the Euro have led to some dramatic rises in raw material costs. Unfortunately, some of these rises have been greatest on those components that cost the most to include in mineral supplements.

Market Movements - taking last September at 100% as the baseline, the rises over this are shown in percentage terms below.

Ingredient Sept 2007 March 2008 June 2008
Vitamin A 100% +36% +77%
Vitamin E 100% +166% +400%
Phosphorus 100% +134% +300%
Cal Mag 100% +37.5% +50%
Copper Sulphate 100% +37.5% -6%
Manganese Oxide 100% +43% +95%
Zinc 100% +10% -17%

As you can see, there have been dramatic movements in the price of phosphorus and vitamin E. In particular it is the phosphate rise, caused by a world shortage of phosphoric acid, that has the major impact on prices. There can be no doubt that the use of mineral supplements is still as vital as it has always been, reducing their use will only cause problems, but it is worth considering whether it is still necessary to use that high phos mineral, or whether a product with a more modest phosphorus content may suffice.

At GP Feeds, we have bought very well against this rising market. If you are using minerals you need to give us a call on 01948 661602 - it could just be the best call you make this month.




Gareth or Rachel (Office)
01948 661602 Fax 01948 871776