DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Dairying

April is a suitable time to relieve soil compaction when conditions are suitable.
April is a suitable time to relieve soil compaction when conditions are suitable.

Cows at grass: Last month I encouraged you to walk your farm to see how much grass you have. You should now have cows grazing. Trying to avoid a ‘crash in milk yield’ is important as the yield of individual cows varies from 15 to 60 litres.

On local farms cows grazing quality grass during the day and eating silage at night, are being topped-up in the parlour after their first 15 litres of milk, at a rate of 0.45 kg of concentrate per litre. Ten kilogrammes of daily parlour feed (fed over two milkings) is therefore adequate for cows yielding up to 37 litres. Once cows are turned out restrict full-time parlour feeding to cows giving more than 20 litres. However, cows producing more than 37 litres still need access to a blend in the Total Mixed Ration (TMR).

In April house very high yielding cows and provide access to a TMR ration. Graze cows giving less than 37 litres and top-up with concentrate in the parlour.

In April house very high yielding cows and provide access to a TMR ration. Graze cows giving less than 37 litres and top-up with concentrate in the parlour.

Average daily milk yield 26 litres per cow Average daily concentrate fed 7.9 kilos per cow Average daily milk from forage 8.3 litres per cow Average daily concentrate feed rate 0.30 kilos per litre

During April I will encourage these farmers to:

Separate their cows into yield groups for grazing or housing.

Set a M+ of 15 litres for grazing cows.

Parlour top-up concentrates to cows yielding above M+ at 0.45 kg per litre.

House cows yielding more than 37 litres and provide access to a TMR ration.

Fine tune based on the daily milk docket and concentrate fed.

Nitrogen for silage

A splash-plate application of 33 cubic metres per hectare (3000 gallons per acre) of cow slurry in February / March will have supplied adequate phosphate and potash for first cut silage. It will also have provided some nitrogen (N) for grass growth. You should now apply 100 kg of N per hectare (80 units per acre) to fields earmarked for first cut silage. Apply this as half a big bag of a 27% N fertiliser product per hectare.

Relieving soil compaction

Now is a suitable time to relieve problems caused by soil compaction. Treated fields will have better drainage and improved productivity. Dig test holes in affected fields (half the length of a spade) to determine the depth of the compacted layer. Signs of compaction include: a layer that is hard to break up, shallow roots growing horizontally, few worms, bad smell or grey colour and brown mottling. The depth of the compacted layer determines the type of machine that should be used to rectify the problem. Use a machine that reaches deep enough to lift and loosen the compacted layer when the soil is dry enough to fracture.

Benchmarking your dairy herd

Why not benchmark your dairy herd to see where improvements can be made. CAFRE Benchmarking identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your business enabling you to plan and compare your performance with similar farms. Contact your CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser for more information.