‘Dairy farmers should target an 8 week dry period’

Dairy farmers should aim to provide cows with an 8 week dry period, according to Teagasc advisor Tom Downey.

“For heifers coming to the end of their first lactation, this should be increased to 12 weeks,” he said.

“This approach gives animals an adequate time to prepare for their next calving. But it also ensures that the withdrawal periods associated with dry tubes are met in full.”

The Clonmel-based advisor confirmed that cows in the Tipperary region have been dried off in good condition.

“The excellent grass growth rates recorded in September and October ensured that farmers got the benefit of high quality milk and the conditions which ensured that cows were fit for purpose at the end of their 2015 lactations.

“We recommend that cows should be dried off with a body condition score of between 3.0 and 3.5. Animals that are that little bit thin at drying off can be offered up to 2 kg/day of a high energy ration until they build up the required level of body reserves.

“It is important to feed a high-quality mineral package throughout the last six weeks of pregnancy. Providing dry cows with adequate levels of magnesium, particularly in cases where the silage on offer is high in potash.

“Mineral packages should also contain the required level of phosphorous.”

Downey said dairy farmers may well come under financial pressure in the early months of next year, given current market predictions for the first half of 2016.

“But ensuring that the cows have access to high-quality grazing will help to improve milk components.

“Weanling heifers must be well looked after during the winter months. Specifically, they should receive 1-2 kg/day of an 18% to 20% protein concentrate.

“This will ensure that they receive their growth targets and calve down successfully at 24 months of age.”

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