The maintenance of body condition score (BCS) is a key factor in determining cow fertility rates on all dairy farms.

There is now a growing concern that the continuing fodder challenge on the majority of Irish dairy farms could see a significant drop-off in BCS levels, if the issued is not directly addressed.

The knock-on effects, where herd fertility performance in 2024 is concerned, are obvious.

Meanwhile, InTouch feed specialists are confirming that the majority of their dairy farmer clients are facing into a fodder shortage, with a significant number of suckler and beef finishing farms equally affected.

“Issues range from farmers trying to make best use of whatever silage stocks they have left to having to  buy-in significant quantities of fodder where on farm stocks have been exhausted,” explained InTouch representative, Amie Peers.

“Most spring calving cows are now in full milk. The breeding season beckons. In this context, the BCS of animals is critically important.

“With so few animals currently out at grass full-time, specialist advice will be required to manage cows over the next few weeks,” Peers said.

The InTouch representative is aware that improving weather conditions may well start to take effect later this week.

“It will take a further 10 days at least before paddocks are fit to carry mature cows,” she added.

Meanwhile, for those farmers buying-in silage, the very clear advice from InTouch is to source good quality feed.

“Without some accurate assessment of forage quality, it is not possible to accurately formulate a ration for stock. If a lab analysis of the feed can’t be carried out, farmers must at least examine the feed visually to make sure it’s suitable for feeding,” Peers said.

Cow fertility rates

InTouch advises that farmers look beyond silage to help bulk out their diets – maize, beet and forage extenders sourced from feedmills offer excellent options to meet animals nutritional needs.

InTouch has welcomed confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) that the capping of protein levels requirement in dairy diets to 15% from 15 April has been tweaked to reflect current weather conditions.

“Dairy herds not out at grass day and night will be exempt from the measure.

“This is a very positive development as dietary protein plays a crucial role in balancing diets which is important for maintaining and building body condition score,” Peers said.

Given current circumstances, InTouch is offering free advice to farmers to help them through the current forage shortage issues, caused by the poor weather conditions.

Peers continued: “Silage and fodder stocks are nearly exhausted, leaving farmers under pressure to find the best solution and source feed when cows nutritional demands are peaking.

“There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution as demand, ground conditions and feed stocks will differ on every farm.

“Instead we offer some ideas of how to overcome a feed shortage, in the short term, to ease pressure on the farmer and animals.”

Farmers, wishing to avail of the free advice service should call the following number: 059 910 1320.