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PKE-free dairy options grow

Fonterra suppliers will be examining tanker dockets more closely this spring as the proposed demerit system, to be introduced in September based on the Fat Evaluation Index (FEI), looms ever closer.

Whilst there is still some uncertainty about what affects the FEI – including breed, stage of lactation and other feeds – some farmers may be encouraged by the potential penalties and confirmatory testing fees to reduce the level of palm kernel expeller being fed. The options for straights and blend users fortunately is growing, as more straights are being drawn to New Zealand – aided by some relative price firmness of PKE on the local and global markets. The added choice of straights on offer is now being reflected in the composition of the compound feeds available. The NRM Premium Dairy Range was introduced last season as a PKE-free range and was well-received given the relative confidence about the ensuing milk pay-out. Appreciating that some farmers are looking for high quality feeds but do not need the very highest specification, NRM has extended its compound dairy feed range to include a PKE-free option of the popular Dairy Extra – NRM Dairy Zero PKE Extra. A PKE-free version of the standard range’s most popular feed should also be a good option for those dairy farmers that just prefer to avoid PKE if they can, irrespective of their FEI. A low fibre formulation, with typically over 45 percent starch and sugar, added trace minerals and vitamins, at only 11 percent crude protein it is a good complement to high quality pasture-based diets. Added calcium, salt and magnesium help to provide a balanced diet, with the option of adding extra macro-minerals if required, as every batch is made to order. Higher protein non-PKE options could be developed in response to demand if required, especially where maize silage or wholecrop is being fed to autumn calving cows.

Compound feed made in New Zealand offers a lot more flexibility and responsiveness compared to imported compound feeds. Intact grains store very well if kept dry but once processed, the ability of the seed coat to protect the nutritious inner is compromised. Especially when a little oil and shipping in hot containers is added to the mix, the stack it high and sell it cheap philosophy of imported straights starts to look less appealing for compound feeds. A key benefit of compound feeds is the ability to add essential minerals, the demand for which consistently varies between seasons, farms and regions.

The relative economy of PKE is likely to remain appealing, especially where the price per tonne is important. However, as more by-products find their way to New Zealand, it is likely that options will develop which are gradually more appealing to a growing number of dairy farmers. Farmers who are troubled by their FEI levels this spring are encouraged to discuss them with their NRM Nutrition Specialist. Conclusions were difficult to draw last season but it is hoped that by sharing information, appropriate remedies to this potentially expensive problem can be found as quickly as possible.

For more information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist.

Article supplied by Dr Rob Derrick, Nutritionist.