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Analysing the Winter Feed Deficit

The majority of dairy cows are now indoors. High levels of rainfall over a short period of time has meant that the extension of the grazing season into December has reduced and a huge demand has been placed on forage stocks.  

Establishing the feed deficit 

At this time, I recommend that all farmers analyse forage quality and complete a forage budget to establish the extent of the winter feed deficit. It is critical to have 75% of silage requirements for the upcoming winter. If farmers are under this figure, I recommend that they limit silage to milking cows and use alternative feeds for youngstock and dry cows. Other ways to address the deficit include purchasing feed concentrates and grass silage and introducing maize silage, fodder beet, wholecrop cereals and straw concentrate diets. Farmers who grow brassica crops have an advantage here.

As a nutritionist, I work closely with a number of farmers to formulate a plan that delivers an appropriate solution for each herd. The target at this time of the year is to maximise the production of milk solids such as butterfat and protein. The response to supplementary feeding to dairy cows indoors is very dependent on the forage quality, whether it is grass silage, maize silage, wholecrop, root crops etc. For spring calving cows, the milk response to supplementation will be low due to the number of days in milk and the diminishing return on milk yield.

Autumn Calved Cows 

For autumn calved cows, the level of supplementation and forage quality will be key determinants in the response and milk yield achieved. The degree of supplementation will need to be closely matched to the potential milk yield and genetics of each cow within the herd. The overall aim is to limit the period of negative energy balance in dairy cows following calving, as research has shown that those in prolonged periods of negative energy have lower milk in their lactation of between 300-600 litres. As a result, an excessive demand is placed on energy sources for maintenance and milk synthesis.

In Connolly’s RED MILLS we have tailored a dairy range for all breeds of dairy cows with specific mineral and feed additives for all stages in the milk curve.

For further advice, be sure to contact one of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team.

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