DARD Management Notes: Dairying

Calves fed colostrum by stomach tube in the first hours of life are almost three times more likely to have adequate immunity compared with calves left to suckle their mother
Calves fed colostrum by stomach tube in the first hours of life are almost three times more likely to have adequate immunity compared with calves left to suckle their mother
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Grazing after grass: There has been good late season re-growth on silage swards.

This should be grazed off clean, as over-wintered grass results in dead material accumulating in the bottom of silage swards next May. With good ground conditions and settled weather, livestock should be able to graze well into November. Graze dairy cows on accessible fields, even for a few hours during the day and use less accessible fields for young stock. Grazing fields to a residual height of 5 cm has the benefit of a good grass sward next spring that will better respond to slurry and fertilizer.

Colostrum for calves

Colostrum management is the most important factor in determining calf survival and subsequent health. Calves are born without any immunity and rely on the protective effect of antibodies derived from their mother’s colostrum. Calves that do not receive adequate antibodies through colostrum are twice as likely to die as calves that receive enough colostrum. Achieve protection by ensuring new born calves receive 10 per cent of their bodyweight or 3.5-5 litres of colostrum within the first hours after birth.

Making sure calves get enough colostrum takes time and effort. Only one quarter of dairy farmers stomach tube every calf, in a bid to ensure they receive sufficient colostrum. Calves fed colostrum by stomach tube or bottle within the first hours of life are almost three times more likely to have adequate immunity to fight off neonatal diseases compared to calves that suckle their mother. The message is clear; get colostrum into calves early.

Herd performance

Every dairy farmer should have a simple recording system to assess herd performance. Calculating margin over concentrate monthly is very useful performance indicator. Five basic pieces of information are needed to calculate margin over concentrate. They are:

Number of in-milk and dry cows

Monthly milk production

Concentrates fed in the month

Milk price

Concentrate cost per tonne

How can you use margin over concentrate to help your business? Using this simple recording system allows you to compare performance on a monthly basis, for example what was the average number of cows milked last November, what was their average yield, how much concentrate was fed per cow per day and what was their milk from forage? What were the equivalent figures in September and October this year? Having this information enables you to set production targets for this month for volume of milk produced and tonnage of concentrate fed. Break this down into individual milk tanker lifts and loads of concentrate during the month. Monitor your actual tanker lifts and loads of concentrate during the month to fine tune performance.

How does your performance compare with the typical performance from the Co Armagh farms I work with?

See table

At Greenmount Campus CAFRE the high yielding cows are currently fed a 31 per cent dry matter, 11.9 ME first cut silage along with 3.0 kg of blend as a total mixed ration. Cows are expected to produce M+20 kg of milk. As heifer intakes are 25 per cent less than mature cows it is expected they will produce M+16 kg of milk on this ration. Parlour supplementation is used to top up higher yielding cows. These animals are fed the best silage available and housed initially at a reduced stocking density to give them a chance to maximise intake and reduce any social stress. After milking they return directly to the feed barrier and fresh feed is pushed up regularly throughout the day.

For further information, contact your local CAFRE Development Adviser.