Cows at a Co. Limerick dairy farm are each producing an extra 1L of milk a day on average since a feed additive was included in their diet.
Father and son Larry and Shane Smalle run the herd of 64 Holstein cross Friesian cows at Boheroe, Pallasgreen.
The herd yields an average of 7,100L of milk at 3.74% protein and 4.21% butterfat from 1t concentrates/cow – but that wasn’t the case in spring 2019. Milk solids were dropping and the physical indicators that all was not well with herd health were very loose dungs and poor heats.
The turnaround came when the Smalles included Rumen Proof in the cow diet following a recommendation from Pat Corbett of Mayo Healthcare; 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.
Larry and Shane initially sprinkled it on the concentrates they feed in their 10-unit milking parlour. Daily milk yield per cow lifted by 1L and milk solids increased too. It was evident that cows were happier because heats were noticeably stronger and the consistency of dung was good, says Shane.
In the 2020 calving season, which started on February 6, 84.21% of the herd calved in the first six weeks and the entire herd in 10.5 weeks, with just one cow empty. All calves are reared for the first 12 months.
Dairy heifers are retained as replacements and those that are surplus to requirements are sold on the point of calving or freshly calved. Male dairy progeny from cows and all Aberdeen Angus offspring from heifers are sold at 12-15 months.
This was done for them at the milling stage at Roches Feed in Limerick.
“Since we started feeding it this year milk yield has again increased and solids are holding as good as last year,” says Shane.
In just three days there was a noticeable improvement in dung texture. As the herd is now into the breeding season cow heats are very strong and evident. Because the cow rumen is functioning well, grass intake has improved too.
The herd is mostly turned out to grass in late February, but due to the exceptionally wet conditions this spring, this was delayed until March 13, with on/off grazing until March 22 when the herd was fully at grass.
“Cows are grazing ground tighter and cleaning out paddocks better,” says Shane. “Cows are way more content; by 11:00am 80% of cows are lying down chewing their cuds.”