Monday, August 20, 2018

Measure grass quantity and quality to get most from summer grazing

May 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Dairy producers are being encouraged to measure and monitor grass quality and quantity to improve the accuracy of nutritional management of cows at grass.

“An unprecedented winter followed by a late spring has put the industry under extreme pressure, with fodder shortages and delayed turnout being a widespread issue,” says Tom Chanter, a feed specialist with InTouch.

“Producers are therefore looking to capitalise on the grazing now available in an attempt to improve margins and offset some of the additional costs incurred over the winter period.”

Accurate and efficient feed management is paramount – especially this year with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board reporting that grass growth is at least two weeks behind this time last season, and with limited forage stocks available.

“Producers often pay less attention to the nutrition of cows at grass but a smart feeding approach is still required to capitalise on the full value of grazing, and is particularly important this year off the back of a very hard winter,” says Mr Chanter.

With grass availability behind, buffer feeding is likely to be needed to balance the ration without having to rely heavily on concentrate feed. A buffer ration will support cow condition and help maintain yields, as well as benefiting milk constituents.

With some milk contracts offering benefits of up to 2p per litre for achieving target protein and butterfat levels, this could really help profitability, particularly as constituents traditionally drop off following turnout.

Complement grazing

To accurately formulate a buffer ration, Mr Chanter advises farmers regularly measure grass quality and intake. Testing fresh grass quality as well as measuring intakes of grazed grass on a dry matter basis will allow accurate formulation of a buffer ration to complement the grazing.

An understanding of the nutrition being provided from grass can also increase the accuracy of in-parlour feeding, offering potential cost savings. “Each paddock will vary in quality, and producers should therefore be regularly monitoring grazing, adjusting the diet accordingly.”

Soya prices are already on the rise, and it is also worth ensuring that protein isn’t being oversupplied in the parlour. Alternative feeds and products such as Yea-Sacc, which complements digestion of grass through removing oxygen from the rumen, can support diet efficiency.

Mr Chanter says: “Increasing feeding accuracy and diet utilisation of cows at grass will pay dividends and help bolster margins following a very challenging winter period.”

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