Maximising Potential of Your Dairy Herd

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Byline: TECHNICAL DEPARTMENT JOHN THOMPSON & SONS LTD

VALUE-ADDED products that will complement all aspects of summer grazing and ensure maximum herd performance are part of the nutritional package being offered by John Thompson & Sons.

Some of the situations where these products will assist include shortcomings in the grass sward, hoof health, milk yield, butterfat enhancement, embryonic deaths, fertility and essential vitamins and minerals which may be lacking due to the past winter's feeding regime or are not present in sufficient quantities in the sward on your farm.

Many of the value-added products are unique to Thompson's and have been independently researched and trialled on-farm to ensure that your herd can reach its potential for yield, milk quality and fertility.

MILK PRICE: While it is difficult to predict future milk prices the last milk auction, on April 1, 2004, for the peak months of May to July provides some reassurance for this summer. The overall average showed an increase of about 0.2 pence per litre on the same auction last year.

MILK QUOTA: Milk production from local farms has grown by 30 per cent since the introduction-of milk quotas in 1984. Just under 4,500 dairy farms now produce 1.8 billion litres of milk on an annual basis. The trends in wholesale milk quota owned locally is shown in Table 1.

The volume of quota held by producers in Northern Ireland is 12 per cent of the United Kingdom total. On a regional basis, NI holds the second largest amount of quota in the UK after England. In addition to quota owned, a large volume is leased in each year.

MID-TERM REVIEW: The recent announcement that NI dairy farmers will receive de-coupled entitlements based on their historic right to dairy compensation - ie, milk quota held on March 31, 2005 - topped up by additional flat rate payments of approximately pounds 50/hectare (based on land areas declared on 2005 IACS form) has been largely welcomed by the industry.

W ith the large amount of money invested in quota over the past number of years and the compensation based on quota held at March 31, 2005, there will be a continuous emphasis on filling quota by increasing milk yield per cow.

KEY FACTORS: Feeding concentrates must at all times show an increased level of animal performance. With this in mind, objective of feeding dairy cows at grass is to complement grass swards by reducing any limitations grass has and thus maximising cow performance.

MILK YIELD: Milk production and, in particular, milk yield, will be the number one priority when milking cows at grass. When feeding concentrates at grass the largest response in milk yield will be from high-yielding dairy cows when grass quality or availability is poor.

Recent evidence from Moorepark (2003) would show that, under ideal grass growing and grazing conditions, the response from feeding one extra kilo of concentrate is now equal to 1.26 litres of milk. These results are highlighted in Table 2.

Economically, this is a viable action without even considering fertility and milk quality benefits.

Actual rather than potential production from grass is the base level to which any supplementation is added. Actual productionis influenced by a number of factors such as sward height, density, and grazing conditions which all can reduce the amount of milk produced from a grass sward.

Supplementation for yields above the production from grass will be essential and this should be offered in the form of high energy concentrates to maintain performance during the grazing season. …