A recent Teagasc report stated that spring-calving cows should be on a rising plane of feed intake and milk solids yield through the latter half of the first rotation.

Grass intake of about 14kg dry matter (DM) per day, offered as two grazings, provide an excellent quality base in the diet.

Providing the correct rate and type of supplementary concentrate can deliver an economic response and set up the herd for a good lactation yield.

Results of a grazing experiment completed at Teagasc Moorepark showed a good milk and body condition score (BCS) response to feeding 3kg of concentrate in early spring, with little effect on grass utilisation.

Feeding up to 6kg produced a milk response, but at a significantly declining rate. Cows which are now supplemented, milked relatively well also, did so at the expense of body condition.

In terms of a carryover effect, the cows fed 3kg or 6kg had a similar milk yield through the summer, while the non-supplemented cows’ yield remained lower during that period.

These results indicate that spring feeding 3-4kg of concentrate with good intakes of grass will set up the herd for a good peak yield.

A 5-6kg rate may be warranted on farms during times when grass intake is limited. As well as rate, concentration type is also of importance.

The guidelines for choosing concentrates are: 
  • High-energy rations are needed (0.94 to 0.96 UFL per kg as-fed basis) – high-energy ingredients include barley; maize; beet pulp; soybean; distillers; hulls;
  • Protein levels: 14% for the first rotation where two grazings a day can be achieved, 16% where at least one grazing per day will be done (note that for derogation farms, the maximum protein in grazing rations will be 15% from April 1 until September);
  • Include Cal Mag at the correct rate for level of feeding to prevent tetany (55g total needed);
  • Calcium and phosphorus (P), salt and trace minerals should be fed in the first two rotations.