My Grazing week -Autumn series Feeding your cow properly ahead of a busy season


Andrew Walsh is back with My Grazing Week and he's looking at getting your cows in shape ahead of a busy season. But what is the best way to do that? Find our how here.

My Grazing week -Autumn series Feeding your cow properly ahead of a busy season

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Andrew Walsh is back with My Grazing Week and he's looking at getting your cows in shape ahead of a busy season. But what is the best way to do that? Find our how here.

My Grazing Week: Autumn 6

Robotic system: DeLaval VMS™ robotic grass based milking

Recap autumn 5:

MS/cow/day: 2.04kg

Grass GR: 70Kg

Dealing with lame cows

(7th - 13th September)

Milk KPI’s

Fat

4.64%

Protein

3.86%

48TY]

24kg

MS/cow/day

2.04kg/cow

SCC (‘000)

84

TBC (‘000)

3

Concentrates

Rotation length

3.5kg

32 days

Life on the farm

Grass growth has been phenomenal this week, with growth rates well above 80kg DM/ha. As a result, we have been able to push rotation out to 32 days, but grass covers are getting quite high in some of the paddocks. We have avoided much of the rain so far this week so grazing these high covers (>1600 kg Dm/ha) has not been an issue.

The last round of fertiliser was applied to the grazing block. We broadcast out 150kg/ha of 18.6.10 to build up the potassium and phosphorus levels in the soil. Where phosphorus levels were adequate 24.2.5.5 was applied at a rate of 125 kg/ha.

Farmyard manure (FYM) was spread onto stubble ground and we will hopefully get all of this spread in the coming week.

Feeding your cow adequately

It is an important time of the year, especially for spring calving herd, to be looking at body condition score (BCS), and trying to have your cow in the condition at dry off (BSC score of 3-3.25).

Getting your cow to the right condition is all down to the cows energy intake vs. energy output. If the cow is using up more energy than she is getting through the feed, then this cow will be losing body condition. If there is a big deficit in her energy requirements, then the cow will lose condition rapidly. This also holds true for cows consuming too much feed and having a higher intake of energy than is required. The cow will gain condition and this will causing difficulties (milk fever, fatty liver syndrome) if she calves down in this high condition score.

This is why it is important to ensure that your cows are receiving the optimal levels of feed and more importantly energy!

Grass is the number one energy source in Ireland for a cow, as it is the cheapest and most abundant feed available here. Throughout the year grass quality and intake changes. As a result, we must use measures to counteract this to benefit the cow.

In order to bridge the energy gap that the grass alone will not provide, we need to supplement the cow with a high-energy feed. Particular attention and additional feed must be given to high yielding cows, especially coming up to the breeding season.

It is up to the farmer, and the quality of the supplement (usually a concentrate mix) as to how much each cow will receive in the day.

With milking robots, it is simple to create feed tables to meet the individual needs of each cow using the computer software.

When a cow calves with us she is gradually built up to a flat rate feed of around 4-5 kg/day. Once the cow hits day 35 she is placed onto a feed to yield table whereby the more milk she gives the more feed she gets.

Once the cow reaches day 100 or around peak milk production, she reaches her peak feeding level for the year (depending on her BCS).

When the cow is 100 days out from calving or 40 days from dry off, she is placed onto a step down feed table, if she has a BCS between 3-3.25. If the BCS is greater than this then given a much more rapid reduction in feed. If she is on the thin side, hovering around a 2.5-2.75 BCS, then she allowed a much more gradual step down.

As I mentioned it is up to the farmer individually as to what level of concentrate each cow receives, but we generally use 1kg ration for every 6kg of milk.

We mainly use the figures that we obtain from our DeLaval Automatic BCS camera to determine any necessary changes to a cows feed. Sometimes a cow needs a higher level of feed than what the feed table allocates, and some need less. These adjustments can be made to an individual cow in the computer software.

Summary

The main determinant of how much feed a cow gets should be largely based on her BCS, rather than just milk production alone.

As I will discuss in the coming weeks, it is extremely important for the longevity of the cow to have her in the correct body condition at dry off, calving, and breeding.

Some cows will respond better to receiving concentrates and will produce more high levels of milk on high levels of feeding. Other cows are not so responsive so this is why we tailor the feed to meet each individual cow’s needs.

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