An overview of silage research in Finland: from ensiling innovation to advances in dairy cow feeding
Because of the climatic conditions, the Finnish milk production research has focused to improve the utilisation of grassland, mainly as conserved forages. The main research areas have been ensiling, evaluation of the forage feeding value, predicting nutrient supply from grass silage-based diet and the effects of forage quality and concentrate supplementation on milk production responses. Due to changes in ensiling technologies and variety of forage crops new silage additives have been adopted. A centralized system for the analysis of forage energy value is based on NIRS calibration. It was calibrated against in vitro pepsin-cellulase solubility method that was validated against in vivo digestibility. The concentration of indigestible neutral detergent fibre was found to be a useful parameter both in empirical models predicting forage digestibility and mechanistic rumen models predicting the amounts of absorbed nutrients. Models predicting relative intake potential of forages and total diet were developed, and an intake model combining animal and diet effects independently of each other was developed. Using meta-analysis approaches a nutrient response model was developed for dairy cows for milk, energy corrected milk and protein yield. Feed evaluation, intake and nutrient response models form now the basis of practical Finnish ration formulation system that can optimize diets according to maximum income over feed cost in addition to minimum feed cost.