My Grazing Week: Autumn -Grass is green gold


Andrew is back with the ever popular My Grazing week and this week he is looking at the green gold that powers it all; grass.

My Grazing Week: Autumn -Grass is green gold

  • ADDED
  • 2 years ago

Andrew is back with the ever popular My Grazing week and this week he is looking at the green gold that powers it all; grass.

Robotic system: DeLaval VMS™ robotic grass based milking

Recap last week:

MS/cow/day: 1.93kg

Grass GR: 60Kg

Do robots work with grazing?

(28th September - 04th October)

Milk KPI’s

Fat

4.72%

Protein

3.99%

Yield

21.5kg

MS/cow/day

1.87/cow

SCC (‘000)

100

TBC (‘000)

5

Concentrates

Rotation length

3.2kg

37 days

Life on the farm

The days have been warm and the nights have been a bit colder than previous weeks, but grass growth has not slowed down a huge amount. Grass growth is holding at around the 60kg DM/ha mark, which is quite substantial for this time of year.

The rain finally eased off, allowing for a window to empty the slurry tanks before the 15th October organic fertiliser spreading deadline. The ground actually held up surprisingly well where we spread the slurry, considering the heavy rainfall we have experienced in the past few weeks.

Grass Quality

Last week I talked about how robotic milking systems work well on grass, providing the management is correct. The main driver, of the entire system is of course…grass!

First of all, we must have good quality grass for the cows to graze, and secondly, we must allocate the right amount of this grass.

We all know how important feed quality is for the cow, to produce maximum milk solids. But on a conventional system we can often mask over our poor grassland management.

In the voluntary milking system, the gate is essentially always open for the cow to go in and out of. So, if we provide a food substance for the cows that does not satisfy them, they will not be shy about letting us know.

A traffic jam of cows wanting to leave the paddock is usually the first indicator of this! In the conventional system we just shut away our problem and force the cows to eat the poor quality grass, often resulting in a nose dive in milk solids!

It is vital for the success of a voluntary grass based milking system to have top grass quality.

So, what exactly do we want in our paddocks, and what do we not want?

Ideally, we want to be grazing covers of 1200-1400kg DM/ha at the three-leaf stage of growth. In the spring and summer months, keeping a 18-21-day rotation length will usually ensure that grass is at the correct stage, depending on variables such as growth rates, grass variety, etc.

Our aim is to graze the grass when it is at its most palatable and most nutritious stage of growth. If we keep grazing the cows with this type of grass quality, we will see a better cow flow and increased performance, compared to trying to graze ‘forward’ grass.

Cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are the three types of fibre found in the grass plant.

Cellulose, and hemicellulose are two fibres broken down to a usable energy source in the cow’s rumen.

Lignin on the other hand cannot be broken down or used by the cow and has absolutely no nutritional value to the cow!

As the grass plant matures, the lignin content in the plant increases, while the cellulose and hemicellulose content decreases, thus reducing the nutritional value.

We want to graze the grass plant when the lignin content is at a low level and the readily digestible fibres are at an optimum level.

In the summer, grass enters a reproductive stage where by the grass can get ‘stemy’ at high covers, or if clean out is poor in the previous round. This ‘stemy’ grass is unpalatable and we see a reduction in efficient cow flow, with cows not wanting to stay in the field to graze this grass.

When grass gets to this stage we should be looking to mechanically remove this by mowing and baling, or topping after the cows in the previous round if residuals were high.

At this time of year, the grass enters back into a vegetative stage with a reduction in lignin content and more leafy grass present, even at high covers. For this reason, it can be acceptable to allow cows to graze covers of 1800-2000kg DM/ha, providing weather conditions are good. The grass at these covers is still very palatable and has a good nutritional value.

Summary

Unpalatable grass high in lignin content is undesirable for the cow. They do not have much interest in grazing this type of grass.

We want to graze grass at the three-leaf stage to create an optimum cow flow, provided an adequate quantity of this grass is allocated.

Mechanically removing the stem from the paddock, pre or post grazing, drastically improves palatability and digestibility of the grass for the next round of grazing. Keeping the cows content on this grass will improve milk yield, and protein severely.

We cannot cover up the same mismanagement mistakes in a voluntary milking system as opposed to the conventional milking system!

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