Three things you must get right when feeding autumn-calving cows this winter

There are three things that farmers need to consider when feeding their autumn-calving suckler cows, according to Teagasc’s Pearse Kelly.

According to the Teagasc Drystock Head of Knowledge Transfer, these are silage quality, cow body condition score (BCS) and when does the breeding season start on farm.

1. Silage Quality

Silage quality is an important factor to consider and this will impact on the level of concentrates required for these cows over the winter period, he said.

The quantity of the concentrates required increases as the quality of the silage decreases, but he added that silage quality on many farms tends to be on the lower end of the scale.

Furthermore, he added that the protein content of the silage must also be considered as diets which are lacking in protein will have a negative impact on the milk production potential of the autumn calving suckler cow.

“A lot of the results indicate that the protein content of the silage made in 2015 is coming back low.

If the silage is of a low protein content these cows will require a concentrate containing at least 18% protein.

Source - Teagasc
Source – Teagasc

2. Body Condition Score

Another important factor farmers must consider is the body condition score of their cows as good condition is critical to ensure the successful reproductive performance of these autumn calving cows.

He added that thinner cows will require higher energy levels to cycle effectively while the stronger calving cows in the herd will require lower levels of concentrate supplementation.

Cows in good condition on excellent quality silage will require 1.8kg of concentrates prior to mating, the volume of the concentrates required increases as the quality of the silage deciles.

3. Breeding

According to the Teagasc Beef Specialist, the quantity of concentrates offered to cows can also be adjusted post-mating.

However, he added that this is also dependent on the cows BCS and the quality of the silage offered.

Cows in good condition on good quality grass silage (72% DMD) should be given 1.8kg of concentrates/day prior to mating. However, this can be reduced to 0-0.5kg/day post-mating.

But, when these cows are in poorer condition, that concentrate level of feeding will have to be maintained following mating.

teagasc silage 3
Source – Teagasc