How can I prevent milk fat percentages from falling this spring?

AgriLand spoke to dairy farmer Patrick Fortune about his dairy enterprise, herd nutrition and how feeding GAIN BufferFat has improved the quality of his milk solids. Patrick operates a 160-dairy-cow herd in Adamstown, Co. Wexford.

“I farm in partnership with my father Patrick. We milk 160 cows – a mix of British and Holstein Friesian and we calve all the cows in spring.

“We keep all the calves and sow about 60ac of tillage. Our milk solids are at 554kg,” Patrick said.

Performance nutrition

Last year, Patrick started feeding his herd GAIN BufferFat, a specialised dairy feed that optimises milk yields and milk solid production – especially butterfat percentage, while helping to avoid digestive upsets when herds are grazing high-digestibility grass.

“I started feeding the herd with GAIN BufferFat last year once I started the second round of grazing. I give the cows 4kg of GAIN BufferFat and find that the cows are performing well off of it.”

Patrick has seen a number of benefits since he started using GAIN BufferFat.

“I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the yield and milk solid composition of the milk since I started giving the cows GAIN BufferFat.

“The cows are performing at their optimum. It means that they will be more likely to go in-calf at first service and increase the number of cows calved in the first six weeks of calving. It has worked very well for me for the past year and I intend to keep on using it.

“You can see a real difference in the milk solids. It’s a combination of giving them straw, good grass and access to GAIN BufferFat that has achieved this,” said Patrick.

GAIN technical support

Joseph Lyng is Patrick’s GAIN Business Manager.

“Myself and Joe would have a very good working relationship. He advised me to start using GAIN BufferFat last year to improve milk yield and solids at the start of my second round of grazing and I haven’t looked back since.

“Joe is always at the end of the phone and knows what my butterfat results are on an on-going basics.

“I trust Joe’s advice and it means that I know I’m doing all I can to make sure I’m getting the most from the herd while at the same time giving them what they need to achieve this; the service that GAIN provide is top class,” he added.

Patrick uses a range of GAIN products on his farm.

“Before I started using GAIN BufferFat, I used to give the cows GAIN Spring Breeder which also worked very well. I buy all of my feed from GAIN and find that it gives my herd everything that it needs.”

GAIN BufferFat

GAIN BufferFat is a 13% protein nut that is suitable for cows at grass. It optimises milk solid output and helps to avoid potential digestive upsets.

GAIN BufferFat Nut is a solution provider to help avoid and solve milk fat depression, as part of a holistic farm management plan, when herds are grazing lush grass.

Its energy supply is derived from a balanced level of starch and protected starch from maize, and has a high level of digestible fibre to aid rumen fermentation, rumen stability and rumen productivity.

It also contains calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), sodium (Na) and magnesium (Mg) – all essential for optimal health and fertility.

GAIN BufferFat Nuts:
  • 13% protein;
  • Feed rate: 2.5-3.75kg/day;
  • High-energy maize based supplement to support milk yield and fertility for high yields;
  • High slow-release energy level promotes high grass intakes and high milk solids output;
  • Maize meal provides rumen-bypass starch to help promote milk protein production;
  • High-digestible fibre helps support milk fat yield on low-fibre lush spring grass;
  • Yea-Sacc and Acidbuf helps protect against Acidosis and SARA (Sub Acute Ruminal Acidosis);
  • Full rate minerals included in 2.5kg daily feed;
  • Calcined Magnesite 60 grams (2oz) in 2.5kg helps prevent grass tetany.

The importance of Yea-Sacc

GAIN BufferFat contains Yea-Sacc live yeast. Yea-Sacc is the only live yeast proven in Irish grass-based systems to maintain rumen stability, increase efficiency and help cows avoid the wide variations in rumen pH that can interfere with fibre digestion and feed intake.

Figure 1. Effect of Yea-Sacc supplementation or control on rumen pH (P<0.01)


GAIN BufferFat Nut has Acidbuf included which helps to reduce SARA and helps solve depressed milk butterfat percentage.

The inclusion of Acidbuf helps to increase milk yield by 1-2L/cow/day and helps to increase milk butterfat by 0.1-0.2%.

Prevent milk fat percentages from falling

By Maeve Regan, technical support advisor, Glanbia

As second rotations begin on many farms, some herds may begin to experience the onset of milk fat depression. This is often linked with the low fibre and rapidly-fermentable characteristics of young, leafy, lush grass.

However, high oil content in the diet and/or a low rumen pH also play a role in falling milk fat percentages.

Milk recording data in Ireland from 2004 to 2014 highlights that 10-20% of herds experience butterfat depression, costing farmers of average herd size circa €3,000/year.

In many cases, the problem of low milk fat percentages can be avoided or minimised. In the long term, it may be possible to reduce this problem by correct breeding decisions.

It is also possible to make gains by using appropriate nutrition. However, a holistic approach should be implemented on-farm.

This may include increasing the fibre content of the diet/supplements with a high-fibre blend of ingredients, the use of rumen buffering feed additives, and/or avoiding high oil content or rapidly fermentable dietary feed ingredients.

More information

For more information on any of the GAIN products, service or programmes, just click here