Low Butterfat in Spring

May 14, 2014

Currently, many Irish dairy farms have ideal grass growing conditions with rapid regrowth.  These conditions are ideal for growing large quantities of high quality grass but can cause some issues.

This short high energy high protein grass is excellent for producing milk. However, it does not have adequate fibre to ensure that the cows’ rumen is functioning properly. Fibre stimulates the rumen and increases cud chewing; this increases the amount of saliva in the gut which has a buffering effect of the acidic level of the rumen.

Acidosis is where the pH in the rumen drops to a lower level for longer than normal periods. It is normally seen in high concentrate diets where there is not adequate fibre being fed. However, with more intensive grazing in spring a similar effect is seen. This is called SARA (Sub acute Ruminal acidosis), it is not as serious as acidosis but can cause long term damage to the interior lining of a cow’s stomach, which will reduce the cows’ ability to digest all feeds and will cause immunity issues and may reduce the cows’ longevity.

Low Butterfat is the first signal that there may be an issue with acidosis. As a general rule depending on breed, butterfat levels should be higher than the protein content of milk. If the butterfat level drops to near the protein then there is an issue with fibre content.


  • Buffer feeding – Adding some forage in to the diet will help reduce the effect by encouraging more cud chewing; maize silage, straw or even high quality grass silage can help with low fibre levels
  • Use a high fibre dairy cube – All Connolly’s RED MILLS Spring Dairy feeds have high levels of digestible fibre (Beet Pulp, Soya Hulls or Citrus Pulp) which will help buffer the stomach
  • Allowing free access to hay or straw around milking will help reduce in cows that consume some fibre
  • Feed cows 1-2kg of High digestible fibre feed (Beet Pulp, Citrus Pulp, Soya Hulls)

Very Important

Please ensure cows are being fed correct levels of Cal Mag as Grass Tetany is an issue currently. Find out what Cal Mag level is in your feed and ensure your cows are being fed the correct amount.

Prevention is better than cure!!!


Written by Colm McEvoy