The first edition of ECHO Central America / Caribbean Notes (CACN) was well received and elicited interesting questions which we will share with you. The questions have been answered by Dexter B. Dombro, author of the article “Making Silage in Vichada”.
Q. How many cows can be fed from one bag of silage?
A. On the subject of the first question, Cebu cattle are slightly lighter than other breeds, such as the Holstein. If we estimate that a mature Cebu weighs 1,000 pounds (450 KG), the silage intake is 9 KG per day, while a Holstein (1,350 lbs. or 600 KG) can consume about 12 kg per day. A bag of 40 KG is then on average enough for 4 cows per day. However, at present cows are also grazing during the day, so in our case three packs of 40 KG each is enough for 30 cows, including calves, in the summer. It is not necessary to feed the cows in the winter.
Q. Do they have a cost / benefit number for a bag of silage?
A. The cost / benefit question in our region is about 67% better than alternative commercial products. For example, a 40 kg package of “palmaste” is worth $ 60,000 Pesos in the store, plus the cost of transportation to the farm, while the cost of a 40 kg bulk of silage made on the farm is more or less $ 20,000 Pesos, without a cost of transport given that production is located on the farm, then better than 2/3 parts cheaper.
Q. So, $27.00 CDN for the equivalent of $9.00 CDN silage (not including transport costs). Would this be equivalent amounts of feed as well?
A. Undoubtedly there are variations in costs between countries, for us to grow elephant grass and make our own silage is the most cost-efficient solution, plus a solution that works during the summer, when there are not so many alternatives.
Q. Does this translate into higher milk production (or beef?).
A. The idea is not to feed livestock exclusively, but rather to supplement the feeding of cows. In the eastern plains of Colombia the summer is rough, with a drought of 4 months, during which the grasses dry, the forages dry and it is not possible to establish alternative crops. While cattle are grazing all the time, it is absolutely necessary to supplement the nutrition of the animals, to avoid a great loss of weight, or to get sick because of malnutrition. While there is no replacement for fresh nutritional fodder or grass in terms of animal nutrition, silage is a way to preserve most of the nutrients required for cows. Obviously, supplementing livestock feed is important for maintaining milk production, especially if the herd has calves.