Turning out cows without ‘crashing’ milk yields

A key issue facing a lot of dairy farmers at the moment is turning cows out to grass without ‘crashing’ milk yields. This is according to Michael Garvey, CAFRE Development Adviser in Co Armagh.

He said: “How can you maximise daily yield and remain feed efficient on your farm this spring, when individual cow’s yield can vary from 15 to 60 litres? Keeping milk to cows is vital at current milk prices.”

Garvey advised in a spread calving pattern herd, batching your cows into yield groups will help. Early season grazing and parlour supplementation will meet the nutritional needs of the lower yielding cows in the herd but cows producing in excess of 37 litres will still need access to a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) ration. Use milk yields to sort cows into groups for:

  • Grazing full time.
  • Grazing by day and housing by night.
  • Housing full time.

Garvey said: “For the grazing group the ration M+ will depend on the grass supply and quality. For the partial grazing or fulltime housed groups the ration M+ should be formulated so that the lowest yielding cow in the group is not overfed. The M+ will change as cows are moved from housing, through partial grazing to full time grazing.”

“Feed higher yielding cows in groups with supplementary concentrates in the parlour. Target concentrate to cows on a ‘feed to yield’ basis at a rate of 0.45 kilos of concentrate per litre of milk above the group M+. In early April two daily feeds in the parlour will allow a group of cows (at grass by day and fed silage by night) yielding up to 37 litres, to be successfully managed together.”

He concluded: “Turn cows out for two to three hours grazing per day initially building up to half days over a period of seven to 10 days. This allows cows to maintain total dry matter intakes, avoiding energy deficits and minimising body weight loss. Typically in April 100 cows will need one hectare of grass for fulltime grazing each day.”

Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
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