Maximising output from winter feeding

Conrad Ferris
Conrad Ferris

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) will host a series of three farm walks from 12th to 14th September in Banbridge, Enniskillen and Newtownstewart.

At these events, AFBI’s dairy scientists will be addressing key issues within dairy production and presenting their latest research findings across a broad spectrum of management challenges currently facing the local dairy industry.

Winter feeding research at AFBI Hillsborough identifies improved management strategies.

Winter feeding research at AFBI Hillsborough identifies improved management strategies.

One of these topics will be how to optimise your use of winter feeding.

As September approaches, the thoughts of many farmers will begin to move to ‘winter’ feeding. Given that concentrates comprise 60-70% of variable costs on most Northern Ireland dairy farms, and that a large proportion of concentrates are offered during the winter, management decisions during the housed season can have a significant impact on overall farm profitability.

Novel strategies to manage winter feeding costs, proven through robust research trials undertaken in AFBI, will be discussed during the series of farm walks being organised for early September. These include management strategies for thin cows in late lactation, the impact of concentrate feeding on dry cow performance, and concentrate feeding strategies and concentrate feed rates in early lactation.

Many winter feeding decisions will of course be influenced by the quality and quantity of silage in the pit. Given the excellent spell of weather in May and June and the above average growth rates to date, many farmers have an excellent quantity of what should be good to high quality silage available for feeding. This can offer real opportunities to reduce feed costs this winter, but only if the feeding quality of the silage is known.

So, if first cut silage pits have not yet been analysed, this should be a key priority over the coming weeks to allow for effective winter feed budgeting. Farmers should send samples of their silage into the Hillsborough Feed and Information Service (HFIS) based in AFBI Hillsborough (028 9268 1583 or 1589 or 1580; or email:

However, to fully maximise your dairy herds potential this winter, attendance at one of the AFBI farm walks is essential to learn about the latest advances across calf rearing, young stock management as well as producing milk from grass and during the winter months.

Overall attendance will help you maximise your herd’s output economically and offer you the opportunity to talk to AFBI’s leading researchers as well as CAFRE technologists and representatives from Agri-Search. The AFBI ‘Dairy Innovation in Practice’ roadshow this September will take place across three on-farm events as follows:

The host farms:

Tuesday 12 September - Ian McClelland, 64 Moss Road, Banbridge, BT32 3NZ

Wednesday 13 September - Aidan McManus, Cloniff, Macken, Enniskillen, BT92 3BP

Thursday 14 September - David Hunter, 43 Droit Road, Newtownstewart, BT78 4DS

The event will start at 10.30am and the last entry will be at 12.30pm. The full farm walk will take two-and-a-half hours and therefore will be completed by 3pm. The farm walk will be signposted from the nearest village. Everyone who wishes to attend must pre-register for a starting timeslot, otherwise entry cannot be guaranteed. Pre-registration can be completed by visiting the AFBI website or by telephone: 028 9025 5636. By pre-registering you will automatically receive complimentary light refreshments at the end of the farm walk.

In the interests of biosecurity those attending are asked to wear clean clothing not previously worn while in direct contact with their own animals. Outdoor work boots should not be worn. Protective overalls and footwear will be provided.

So plan to attend one of these important dairy on-farm walks which will provide you with new ideas and methods to uplift productivity, economically on your own enterprise.

For further details see