Lots of our farmers have started feeding kiwifruit this last week or so because it actually stacks up alright price wise and has the potential to be a good feed – however, there are some major risks with feeding it and losing a couple of cows makes it pretty expensive!
How should I feed kiwifruit to my cows?
Introduce the kiwifruit slowly:
- Increase intakes gradually over 2-3 weeks, to ensure all animals in the mob are eating fruit and their rumen bug population adapts to the high sugar content.
- Start at about 5kg wet weight of fruit/cow/day. In most herds, you should only be feeding 2-3kgDM per cow or 10-15kg wet weight.
- Control the intake of individual cows, as kiwifruit is very high in soluble sugars, cows LOVE it (it’s like lollies) and they can get acidosis if they eat too much fruit.
- Don’t miss days of feeding it. Feed it mixed with other feeds such as maize silage or grass silage and ensure there is plenty of feeding area (access to it).
Think about cows that have been in the sick mob without kiwi being added back into the mob getting kiwifruit – these animals are high risk for acidosis.
Keep an eye on the ripeness of the kiwifruit
Hot autumn days overripen the fruit in the bunker very quickly. Ripe fruit contains more soluble sugar than unripe fruit, making it more likely to cause acidosis. Ideally, a load is fed out over 4-5 days of arrival on farm, as it gets cooler you may be able to extend this.
On the other end of the spectrum hard, unripe kiwifruit can cause cows to choke and cows will die of bloat very quickly. Even if the load appears to have soft fruit there can be some harder fruits in the load. Ideally, kiwifruit are put through a mixer wagon or smashed with the bucket of the tractor before being fed out.
Get advice first
Speak to your local vet about feeding kiwifruit before you start so you know what to look out for and what you can do in these situations.