Farmers have struggled to turn stock out to grass over recent weeks and forage and fodder reserves are running close to exhaustion on many farms.

Poor weather has seen the number of grazing days reduce on many farms. In cases where farmers did get a large portion of the milking platform grazed, significant reductions in grass regrowths are being noted.

Where this has occurred, dairy farmers have been forced to introduce other feedstuffs – either beet, concentrates or other forages – to fill the nutritional gap.

Over recent weeks, milk protein performance has been less than desired on many farmers – linking back to delayed turnout and poorer-quality forages.

In many instances, farmers may have used high-quality surplus bales earlier in the year and are now supplementing cows with poorer-quality silages and additional concentrates; this is having a negative impact on production in some cases.

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AgriLand has learned that milk protein percentages have dropped below 3% on a number of farms. Two leading dairy processors – Glanbia and Kerry – have also confirmed that protein percentages are back on the corresponding period in 2017.

“Average milk protein for March 19-22 was 3.18% compared to 3.30% for the same period last year,” a spokesperson for Glanbia noted.

A spokesperson for Kerry also confirmed that milk solids (fat and protein) are back on the corresponding period in 2017.

He said: “March milk collections started off well, but we’ve seen a significant decline in terms of solids over the last couple of weeks when we compare it to the same period last year.”

However, the fat and protein percentages of the milk supplied to Kerry was actually up in the first two months of 2018. Butterfat stood at 4.24% – up from 4.13% last year – and protein percentages climbed to 3.43% from 3.35% in 2017.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Arrabawn said: “It is a very late spring and it’s making life difficult for farmers. But volume is strong; we are up 3% for March to date.

“Solids are also a little better than last year but that’s coming at a cost to the farmer with increased concentrate usage. There are some farms where solids are down, but overall we are better than last year.”

A spokesperson for Aurivo told AgriLand that milk collections were up by 8% at the co-op during the week ending March 17 and that no impact on milk solids is being observed.

Supplier meetings

To stem the issue of falling milk protein percentages, a number of dairy processors have arranged information meetings for their suppliers this week.

The meetings will detail how to take corrective measures – in terms of nutrition – to resolve this issue.