How to manage high-yielding dairy cows at grass

High-yielding dairy cows, averaging in excess of 7,500L per lactation, can produce significant quantities of milk from grazed grass, according to Cargill nutritionist Dr Philip Ingram.

“But this is from the mid point of their lactation onwards. And, in such scenarios, there is scope to reduce the protein content of the concentrate being offered to between 14% and 16%,” he said.

“However, cows capable of producing over 25L and put out to grass should receive a buffer TMR at night. This is to help maintain energy balance and condition – not just yield. And in the case of very high yielding cows, the most effective management option is to maintain these animals on a full TMR day and night.

“It is crucially important for dairy farmers to utilise grazed grass as efficiently as possible in the diets they feed to their stock. And the same principle holds when it comes to making quality silage. Forage quality is the key driver behind dairy performance the year round.”

Ingram went on to point out that cutting concentrate feed rates to freshly-calved dairy cows is a short-term saving with long-term consequences.

“Cows that are producing in excess of 8,000L per lactation from up to 2.5t of meal are still generating high levels of business turnover. So in real terms, cutting back meal inputs by even a few hundred kilos per animal is a small component in the overall financial framework of a modern dairy farming business,” he said.

“The short-term impact of such a decision will be an immediate drop in milk output. Essentially, if there are less litres produced, this makes each litre produced more expensive. But the longer term consequences must also be taken into consideration.

“By lowering the levels of nutrition fed to cows they are less likely to come back into calf. Fertility is a huge driver of efficiency. Poor fertility equates to a greater proportion of stale, less efficient cows. There are also health benefits to be gained by maintaining cows on an optimal level of nutritionally balanced feed input.”

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