A View from Northern Ireland: A number of Armagh dairy farmers are monitoring their cow’s margin over concentrate (MOC) performance. At a recent College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Training Course at the Kinnear farm, Keady they discussed efficient concentrate feeding, a key component of good MOC performance.

The Kinnear herd is managed in one milking group during the summer. They are grazed by day and buffer fed at night. Concentrates are topped up in the milking parlour.

Average production for the milking group was 28 litres with the highest yielding cows producing 40+ kilos of milk. Their diet of 12 hours grazing 12 kilos first cut silage, 5 kilos malt grains and 1 kilo of blend supports a base milk yield of M+22 kilos of milk. Cows are fed 0.4 kilos of concentrate in the parlour for each kilo of milk over the M+22 figure. In parlour cow automatic identification and milk recording are used to set the amount of concentrate fed.

In addition to seeing the Kinnear’s system, Alan Hopps and Michael Garvey, CAFRE Armagh, outlined the principles of efficient concentrate feeding:

* Know what base milk yield your cow’s diet should support. In July, cows grazed day and night can expect to produce M+15 kilos of milk, cows grazed by day and buffer fed silage at night can expect to produce M+12 kilos of milk. Each kilo of blend in the buffer feed will add 2 kilos to the base M+ figure.

* Know the yield of individual cows. This information can come from your milk meters, monthly milk recording or information noted from milk recording jars during milking.

* Feed cows according to their yield, taking account of the expected base production from the cow diet. Each kilo of milk over the M+ figure requires 0.4 kilos of concentrate.

* A nine kilo daily parlour feed can account for an additional 20 kilos of milk above the cow’s diet M+. Only the highest yielding cows need blend in the buffer feed.

* Every farm needs a protocol for concentrate build up in early lactation.

* Keep a check on the daily milk deliveries and concentrate fed. Fine tune feed levels to achieve better results.

For further information on monitoring cow’s Margin over Concentrate performance or becoming involved in CAFRE training in your area contact your local dairying development adviser in Northern Ireland.

By Michael Garvey, CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser Armagh