Feed additive bolsters milk butterfat in zero-grazing dairy herd

A dairy farm which uses zero-grazing to drive milk production from grass says incorporating a feed additive into concentrates protects butterfat levels when buffer feeding is removed from the diet.

Brothers Steven and Ivan Dawson cut and cart fresh grass to their 300-cow Holstein Friesian herd at Corvalley, near Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan.

It is a system they have been practicing for the past 12 years, supplementing the diet with a buffer feed of brewers’ grains and grass silage.

But last year, because grass growth was exceptionally high, they withdrew the buffer feed of brewers’ grains and grass silage, topping the cows up with concentrates in the parlour only.

Yet this change had adverse consequences, says Steven. “We noticed the dung was getting quite loose and the butterfat in the milk was dropping.’’

No additional work

His nutritionist, Alan Hurst, of Lakeland Dairies, recommended incorporating Panatec Rumen Proof into nuts fed in the parlour.

This residue-free feed additive is manufactured by Mayo Healthcare and acts as a rumen enhancer for greater performance and improved energy in the rumen.

Steven says he noticed an improvement in less than a week. “The dung consistency was much better and the butterfats stabilised; they were back to where they had been before we stopped buffer feeding.’’

Panatec Rumen Proof helps cows to utilise grass in the rumen. “With zero-grazing they are getting a lot of short lush grass, Rumen Proof stops the grass running straight through them.’’

Cows receive concentrates up to a maximum of 10kg in the parlour, yielding an average of 7,000L of milk annually at 3.90% butterfat and 3.30% protein with milk supplied to Lakeland Dairies. 70% of the herd calves in the spring.

The Dawson brothers farm 360ac of owned and rented land. They introduced zero-grazing as a means of using grass better. Grass is cut and carried from early March to the end of October, although last year’s exceptional spring allowed the system to begin as early as February.

Between 4t and 4.5t of grass is cut each day. Spring grass is high in protein with not too much fibre but because it grows quickly there can be wastage.

“Zero-grazing helps us to control it by bringing the freshly cut grass to the cows,” says Steven.

By regularly cutting the grass it doesn’t go to seed but low dry matter (DM) at certain times of the year can be an issue.

“We don’t have problems with the first rotation; the grass that grows over the winter months and early spring has a higher DM and cows are getting more TMR at that point,’’ says Steven.

“Where we do get problems is when the volume of TMR is reduced or we are not buffer feeding.’’

That is where Panatec Rumen Proof has been a tremendous help. As Panatec Rumen Proof is incorporated into the concentrates it creates no additional work.

“We used it for five months last year and our plan is to use it again this year; we were very pleased with it,’’ says Steven.

Further information

For more information on Panatec Rumen Proof, go to: www.mayohealthcare.ie; or just click  here