The unfavourable weather conditions over the past number of months has resulted in poor grass growth, together with limited grazing opportunities for cows in early spring.
Managing Forage Stocks
The unfavourable weather conditions over the past number of months has resulted in poor grass growth, together with limited grazing opportunities for cows in early spring. The current conditions will inevitably delay silage cutting and reduce the possibility of yielding high quality grass silage. With breeding season fast approaching, dairy cows have mobilised more than half or up to one full body condition score which as a result, may have implications for cows returning to oestrus. The biggest challenge facing farmers is managing current forage stocks and supplementing accordingly to achieve a target dry matter intake without compromising milk production and animal health status.
Many farmers have been forced to purchase silage, hay and straw at exorbitant prices. However, supplementing with additional concentrates in the milking parlour can be a simple way to alleviate the demand on forage intake for calved cows. Depending on dry matter intake, offering 1 kg of concentrate will reduce grass silage by approximately five kilograms. In cases where grass silage lacks quality, rolled barley, beet pulp or soya hulls can help reduce demand on forage. Concentrates are much better value and farmers should use only the minimum roughage where it is scarce. Straw is another option which can be offered as it is a great source of long fibre which helps to reduce digestive upsets such as acidosis and displaced stomachs. It is must be balanced correctly for energy, protein and trace elements.
We are hopeful that the weather conditions will improve significantly over the next couple of weeks, however for the time being, it is essential to ensure that all animals have sufficient forage and are supplemented accordingly.
For further advice on managing forage stocks and animal health, be sure to contact one of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team.