My Grazing Week: Autumn 2


On this week's My Grazing week, Andrew Walsh is back and tells how they gain more from a cows first lactation.

My Grazing Week: Autumn 2

  • ADDED
  • 2 years ago

On this week's My Grazing week, Andrew Walsh is back and tells how they gain more from a cows first lactation.

Robotic system: 1 DeLaval VMS, box unit voluntary milking on grass

Recap summer 1:

MS/cow/day: 2.08kg

Grass GR: 40Kg

Optimal gate change times

(9th - 16th August)

Milk KPI's

Fat

4.39%

Protein

3.70%

kg/cow/day

25.5kg

MS/cow/day

2.06kg/cow

SCC ('000)

78

TBC ('000)

4

Concentrates

Rotation length

3.5kg

24 days

Life on the farm

Rotation length has been increased from 21 days to 24 days as we begin to build grass covers for the later autumn months.

Cows are grazing covers averaging 1200kg Dm/ha. Grass growth has picked up substantially this week with growth rates at around 65kg Dm/ha/day.

We had a lot of rainfall at the start of this week with 22mm recorded falling in a 24 hour period on Monday. More rain is forecasted which will likely make the ground a little softer. The soil moisture deficit has been very high lately so it will hold a lot of water before conditions deteriorate too bad.

Milk solids are excellent with protein and fat percentages rising. This is a sign that energy and fibre levels are adequate in the diet.

Generating more profit in 1st lactation

The 1st lactation heifers in your herd are the "future of the herd", so it is important to give them additional attention where required. However they tend to be at the bottom of the cow hierarchy, and are more timid compared to the older, more dominant cows.

On a voluntary milking system, this can cause some issues where these animals in the herd are constantly pushed to the back of the milking queue, left with the lowest quality grass in the field, and do not reach their full genetic potential.

What you might think now is that voluntary milking is reducing the output for your heifers. Actually, depending on your system installed, we have come up with an excellent solution for this. This solution will actually get more out of your heifers compared to a standard conventional system!!

Cows are selective grazers, meaning they will graze the best quality grass first and the worst quality grass last.

This illustration below shows what happens when a cow enters a fresh field of grass. The red circles indicate her grazing pattern, whereby she has selected the best quality grass she can find to graze first upon entering.


Based on this, the theory that we adapted on our farm was that if we send our most vulnerable cows to this fresh grass first, she will select the best quality feed thus giving her a far better chance to achieve her genetic yield potential. Essentially we are manipulating the fact that every cow is naturally a selective grazer.

We did this by letting all of our 1st lactation heifers to the fresh allocation of grass (in all three areas), 1 hour before the rest of the cows are sent. Example: gate change time to Area C is at 17:00, heifers have access to this area at 16:00.

By doing this, we have achieved an average yield increase of 2kg in all of our heifers, and milking frequency, for the heifers, went from 1.9 milkings per day to 2.3 milkings per day. Another spin off from this is that our problem with shy heifers has nearly completely vanished as they became aware that fresh grass is available to them before the rest of the herd. So essentially a large proportion of the heifers are getting milked before some of the cows of greater dominance in the herd!

By just creating these settings on our Smart Gates, we have a projected increase in income of about €200 per heifer! So this is definitely a win-win scenario!

This extra income is only projected from a yield increase, there are also more opportunities for the 1st lactation heifer to produce a greater income. These are:

  • Become pregnant easier- under less stress
  • Significant increase in protein levels- more energy intake from grass
  • Body condition score is more constant (and typically better) from less concentrates fed.
To put it simply, we want to give the heifers in the voluntary milking system the best chance to generate the most amount of profit in her 1st lactation as possible, as well as having her thriving well in her future lactations.

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