Low milk solids in summer weather
As grass growth has significantly reduced over the past number of weeks, some rain would be a distinct advantage for optimum grass growth. I am therefore not surprised to be reporting some problems occurring in terms of low milk solids being produced by cows at grass.
The main aim for all dairy farmers must be to produce milk with a high solids concentration that attracts a higher price for milk, however this is not often as easy as it might sound.
Factors that contribute to low milk solids from dairy cows at grass
- Insufficient herbage intake will limit energy and the dairy cow will not reach its genetic potential for milk yield.
- Energy is the limitation of potential milk yield at grass and dairy cows must be supplemented with high density concentrates to bridge any shortfall – an energy shortage in the diet of the dairy cow is diagnosed when the milk protein is less than 3.0%.
- High protein feeds can depress milk protein percentage when energy is the real root problem.
- The content of lush grass can have an effect on milk solids in terms of low butterfat percentages. Lush grass can be very digestible but have very low fibre levels.
In order to avoid such problems it must initiate 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. There are many other factors that will affect milk protein for example; bull selection, replacement rate, calving pattern and soil fertility.
How to improve low butterfat
In order to counteract low butterfat levels at grass, my advice is to provide some digestible sources of fibre in the form of hay/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 ONLY act as an aid in stabilizing milk solids at grass.
It may take time to achieve an increase in the overall milk solids content of your herd, but seasonal effects in terms of grass quality and composition can be prevented with monitoring of herbage intake, providing cows with straw/hay and offering concentrates high in energy content. I recommend the 14 or 16% hi energy dairy cube from Connolly’s RED MILLS for dairy cows at this time of the year with elevated energy and fibre.
At Connolly’s RED MILLS we have tailored feeds to offset some of the associated problems I have mentioned. Contact any member of the nutrition team for further advice.
- milk solids