Our first speaker at LILIS was ruminant forage specialist and President-Elect of the British Grassland Society Johnny Bax, who had travelled all the way to Howside from his home in Aviemore.
Johnny started his agricultural career working as a stockman and herdsman in Scotland and Wales for five years. He obtained a degree in Animal Science, at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), which was then followed by 3 years researching protein nutrition in ruminants. After that, he became a general agricultural advisor for the SAC, before moving to the Crichton Royal Farm (CRF), SAC’s centre for dairy research in SW Scotland. The CRF is responsible for the management, experimental design and technology transfer for a long term, 2 herd system study, investigating the physical and financial outcomes of differing dairy management strategies. Whilst at the CRF he also developed new forage strategies for milk production systems, carried out feeding trials and lectured in dairy management.
Johnny talked to the attendees about how bugs and bacteria are involved in the whole process of feeding livestock, from growing the grass, to making the forage and how they aid digestion. He also discussed the importance of bacteria in all three processes, and how an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, for example, can be linked to all sorts of diseases within cows and sheep.
One of the things that causes most problems, particularly in cattle, is the production of lipopolysaccharides. These can cause issues such as arthritis and laminitis in livestock, and are produced by a reduction in pH within the gut, and therefore, one of the key objectives when feeding ruminants is keeping pH balanced.
According to Johnny, on the whole, UK farmers could improve how they utilise their forage, because it can have a lot of potential that isn’t always harnessed. One way of bettering this is looking at using enzymes to improve quality, and in 2016, it looks like there is beginning to be an improvement in forage quality. This is mainly due to the the fact that producing forage is becoming more and more expensive, and so this means people are starting to address any issues they might have.
The final point of the talk touched on how you can improve output, and to do this, you have to control grazing. The more you monitor your grazing the better!
Huge thanks to Johnny for coming down to LILIS to be one of our main speakers, it was great to hear about forage from someone who has so much experience within the field.