As the summer has finally arrived and grass growth has increased significantly I am seeing problems that occur on an annual basis in terms of low milk solids per cow. The main aim for all dairy farmers must be to produce milk with high solids concentration that attracts a higher price; this is of particular importance when milk price is already at very low levels.
There are many factors that contribute to low milk solids for dairy cows at grass and here is an example:
- Insufficient herbage intake at grass will limit energy and the dairy cow will not reach her genetic potential for milk yield.
- Energy is the limiting factor of potential milk yield at grass and dairy cows must be supplemented with high density concentrates to bridge this shortfall. (An energy shortage in the diet of the dairy cow is diagnosed when the milk protein <3.0%).
- High protein feeds can depress milk protein percentage when energy is the real root problem.
- The content of lush grass can impact on milk solids in terms of low butterfat percentages; lush grass can be very digestible with very low fiber levels.
The foundation to avoiding such problems begins from the start of the lifecycle of the dairy cow. Dairy replacements must be selected for a high genetic merit for milk solids focusing particularly on milk protein and butterfat. The genetic merit of milk protein explains 60% of the difference in milk protein between herds and over 80% of the difference between cows within a herd. However, there are many other factors along the way that will affect milk protein, such as bull selection, replacement rate, calving pattern and soil fertility.
Increase Fibre Intake
In order to counteract low butterfat levels at grass, I advise all our customers to provide some digestible sources of fiber either in the form of hay or straw after milking. Alternatively, other digestible sources such as beet pulp or soya hulls work effectively to slow the rate of digestion. Rumen buffers will also act as an aid in stabilizing milk solids at grass.
To increase the overall milk solids content of your herd, it may take time to achieve but seasonal effects in terms of grass quality and composition can be prevented with monitoring of herbage intake, providing cows with straw or hay and offering concentrates high in energy content such as the 14% Hi Maize Dairy Cubes.
For further information or advice please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Connolly’s RED MILLS ruminant team.
- milk levels