DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Dairying

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Future Herd at Greenmount: The Future Herd at Greenmount Campus consists of a number of milking cow groups.

The availability of parlour auto ID, milk meters, drafting gates and computerised feeding all play a role in managing the herd.

Cows are milked twice daily and are fed a basic ration of grass silage, whole crop and 25 per cent crude protein concentrate blend with some straw and 18 per cent crude protein parlour top-up.

There are a total of 70 cows and heifers calved. Ten first lactation heifers and 19 cows less than 28 days calved are housed in the ‘start up’ group. There are 57 cows in the high yielding group, 41 of which calved since early September.

The protocol for calving cows entering the ‘start up’ group is, on the day of calving they receive 1.0 kg, building up over a 21 day period, to a maximum of 5.5 kg for cows or 3.5 kg for heifers. During this period they also receive 4.5 kg of blend per head per day through the wagon. The total concentrate is therefore 10 kg for cows and 8.0 kg for heifers up to day 28.

Heifers remain in the housed ‘start up’ group and on day 29 on the parlour computer switch to feed to yield. This means animals yielding over 22 litres receive 0.45 kg per litre (minimum of 8.0 kg concentrate made up of 4.5 kg of blend and 3.5 kg of parlour nuts). On day 29 second lactation or older cows move into the high yielding group where they receive 6.0 kg through the wagon and a minimum of 4.0 kg parlour nuts for the first 100 days (minimum of 10.0 kg concentrate). At this stage cows are fed to yield so animals yielding over 30 litres receive additional parlour nuts at 0.45 kg per litre.

For the high yielding group the average daily performance of cows less than 100 days in milk is 36 litres and the 10 day average is 35 litres.

Getting calves weaned at the correct stage is critical

Calves can be successfully weaned when adequate rumen development has occurred. Correct nutritional management of the calf helps improve rumen development in the early days.

Feed calves milk or milk replacer at a rate of 10 per cent of birth weight with the amount held constant until weaning. Feed small amounts of high quality calf starter from four days of age. Offering small amounts regularly keeps the starter fresh and encourages intake. Starter intake is critical for adequate rumen development. Also provide clean water as water consumption encourages starter intake and is needed to support the developing bacterial population in the rumen.

In most cases, calves can be weaned at six to eight weeks if starter intake is adequate, that is, they eat more than 0.75 kg of starter daily for three or more days. Calves that scoured and were off their feed, were fed poor quality starter or did not have adequate water available may require longer. Delay weaning of these calves for an additional week to allow for adequate rumen development.

Through careful management, early weaning can be successful helping to reduce the cost of rearing replacements.

Typical December performance

How does the performance of your herd compare with the typical performance on the County Armagh farms I work with:

Average daily milk yield 22.3 litres per cow Average daily concentrate fed 8.5 kilos per cow Average daily milk from forage 3.4 litres per cow Average daily concentrate feed rate kilos per litre

Better performance can be achieved on farms where the dry matter intake of cows is high. It is important cows receive the same daily feed and never run out of feed. Cows should have access to a consistent TMR mix with, if possible, the same person mixing the ration each day. Cows should return quickly from milking and have fresh feed available on their return. This feed should be pushed up frequently during the day.