Growing more grass and utilizing it better were the main topics of discussion at the recent McLarnon Feeds farm walk, held on the Co. Down farm of Kenny, Sheila and Geoffrey Malcomson near Newry.
The Malcomson family run the predominantly autumn calving Ringclare Herd of 125 Holstein cows on a simple forage-based system.
The current rolling herd average is 8,000 litres per cow at 3.90% butterfat and 3.24% protein. With cows receiving just 1.90 tons concentrates, milk from forage is an impressive 3,800 litres.
Producing quality forage is top priority on the Malcomson farm. With the current dip in milk prices, a key focus this spring has been producing more milk from grazed grass. Cows were turned out on 18 March to boost grass intake and utilization, and to ensure covers did not get too far ahead. Michael Verner, the local CAFRE Dairy Advisor, explained that a target pre-grazing height of 5 inches, grazed down to 2 inches, was crucial for maintaining a quality sward. By getting the most from grass, feed savings of £110/day for a 100 cow herd are achievable.
Underpinning the drive for more milk from grass, the Malcomson policy is to reseed 10-15% of the farm every year, sowing only bold-type varieties to boost grass yield and quality. Whereas ploughing and cultivation is their preferred method of establishment, David Linton from Barenbrug UK outlined how min-till and zero-till techniques can be successful provided ground and weather conditions are suitable. Harold Stevenson, Ruminant Sales Manager at McLarnon feeds, outlined the McLarnon range of grass seed mixtures, designed to produce high quality, leafy swards throughout the season.
While many struggled to make good silage last May, the Malcomson’s first cut analysed at 27.6% dry-matter, 11.5 MJ ME and 15.3% protein. Maize silage has also been grown successfully for over 10 years and helps drive milk production in winter. Last year’s crop analysed at 28.8% DM, 11.8 MJ ME and 31.3% starch. Dr Ronald Annett, McLarnon’s Ruminant Technical Manager, provided some practical advice on making top quality grass silage for dairy cows.
McLarnon Feeds have developed a range of summer diets, designed to meet the nutritional needs of high output dairy cows, and to complement their nutrient intake from grazed grass. For more advice on the McLarnon Summer Range of dairy feeds, contact McLarnon Feeds on 028 7965 0321.
McLarnon Feeds would like to thank the Malcomson family for hosting an excellent farm walk and wish them every success for the future.