Fodder crisis: Animal nutrition clinics to take place today and tomorrow

Glanbia Ireland is holding a series of animal nutrition clinics to assist its farmer suppliers in overcoming the challenges presented by the long winter and difficult weather conditions.

The late spring is causing significant challenges on dairy farms this year. According to Teagasc, year-to-date grass growth is less than half of what it was in 2017.

To help farmers deal with the challenge of managing their farms through this very difficult spring, 18 Glanbia Ireland agri-branches will hold animal nutrition clinics this week.

Based on the low average grass covers on most farms, grass supply is expected to remain tight for a number of weeks.

Clinics

Experts will be available to provide support and advice on how best to manage herds and minimise the impact on the forthcoming breeding season.

Having held the first clinic yesterday, two more are planned for today (Tuesday, March 27) and tomorrow. Today’s clinic, having started at 11:00am, will run through to about 5:00pm this evening; tomorrow’s information day will also run from 11:00am til 5:00pm.

The venues for the events are below:

In addition, an animal nutrition clinic for Glanbia Ireland milk suppliers will take place in the Lakeside Hotel Virginia on tomorrow evening (Wednesday, March 28) from 7:00pm.

Glanbia Ireland animal nutritionist Martin Ryan commented on the events, saying: “Over the past decade, dairy cow breeding and management has focused on aligning calving pattern and the lactation curve with grass growth.

Fodder gap

“This facilitated a reduction in concentrate feed input but with the longer than normal winter and very low grass growth a fodder gap is rapidly emerging on many farms.

The extent of the gap is variable but is generally between 0.5- 0.75t of silage per cow. On the majority of farms an investment of €20-€30/cow is required to minimise or eliminate the impact.

“Cows that would normally be at grass (at least by day) are clearly showing signs of negative energy balance (NEB),” Ryan explained.

“Milk protein percentage is the first casualty of negative energy balance. In a normal spring the recommended concentrate feeding rate for cows on 70 DMD silage and yielding 27L is 7.5kg and can be adjusted by 1kg per 5% change in silage DMD.”

Preventing body condition loss

“One of the main concerns today is preventing body condition loss. Losing body condition will impact future reproductive performance.”

Ryan said that there is a proven strong negative correlation between Body Condition Score (BCS) loss and the three-week submission rate at the start of the breeding season.

When BCS loss is kept at less than 0.25, submission rate can be 90% and over; between 0.25 and 0.5 the submission rate can fall to 70% – but when BCS is greater than 0.5 submission rates can be as low as 40%. This would have an impact for years to come.

The nutritionist explained that, where fodder is in short supply, it’s best to measure available quantity, prioritise stock (milkers, in-calf dry cows and young growing replacements – followed by all other stock) and budget uniformly between now and mid-April.

“Moderate levels of deficit can be replaced with concentrates and higher levels of deficits with a combination of concentrates and straights using as 1:5 substitution rate (1kg of concentrate replacing 5kg of silage),” he said.

“The very same budgeting principles should apply to available grass. It is advisable to maintain 50% of dry matter intake in the form of forage (grass, silage and/or straw).

“At and below 50% forage in the diet, the inclusion of long fibre (straw/hay) is critical to rumen function.

The ultimate objective is to make choices our future selves will thank us for.

For those interested, further information is available from the Glanbia Connect website.