Meal feeding dry cows is well worth the investment if it succeeds in getting them primed properly for their next lactation, according to Teagasc Dairy Specialist Peter Comer.

Now is the time that farmers have an opportunity to ensure that the get the very best out of their cows in 2017, the Ballinrobe-based advisor said.

He added that quite a number of spring calving cows within his Co. Mayo catchment area were slightly on the thin side at drying-off this year.

“A condition score of 2.75 seemed to be the order of the day, whereas a score of 3.0 is optimal.

“The body condition score at calving should be 3.2. In some cases, silage alone may not be sufficient to allow some cows reach this target and in these cases, top-up meal feeding should be considered.”

Body condition score is a key factor in determining whether or not a cow calves down successfully.

“I would also advise farmers to monitor body condition score in the weeks directly prior to drying-off.

“Grazing conditions were quite challenging in parts of Mayo throughout 2016. But the very wet conditions experienced in September set cows back a lot.

Comer said that thin cows should also be dried off that little bit earlier than other cows in the herd.

“The same principle also holds for heifers. Normally an eight-week dry period is sufficient. But for those animals that need a little bit more care and attention this can be extended out to 10 weeks.”

The Teagasc advisor confirmed that most dairy farmers in the Mayo area should have enough silage to get them through to Spring 2017.

“I haven’t seen too many analysis results back as yet, but initial indications are that forage quality this winter will be pretty moderate,” he said.

Comer advised milk producers to have their silage analysed as a matter of course.

“Quite a number of farmers in the west traditionally buy-in silage at some stage during the winter period.

“But, for the most part, these forages will have been made from old leys on drystock farms. As a result, quality will be dubious thereby necessitating extra meal feeding if offered to freshly calved cows,” he said.