The conversation among UK farmers remains the same – what are we going to do about the lack of grass? The very late and wet spring has been compounded by a prolonged heatwave, leaving dairy producers struggling with grass availability for grazing and silage.
To avoid a drop-in production performance while cows are at grass, many are now feeding a buffer ration, dipping into valuable forage reserves much earlier than usual. This is likely to cause a shortage come winter if plans are not in place for the remainder of the year.
When formulating a buffer ration, the instinct is to use up the remainder of last year’s lower quality forage to save 2018 first-cut for winter feeding, but this could be costly as quality won’t be sufficient to support performance. Despite the situation, I would recommend feeding your best quality silage now to the milking herd and saving any lower quality for later in the year, or for other groups such as youngstock.
With milk prices on the rise it’ll pay to push yields, but with forage stocks limited, it will be difficult to do so with what is available. Therefore, to stretch out the forage it’s could be worth adding a blend to bulk up the ration.
Moist feeds are one option, but may be difficult to get a hold of, therefore at Wynnstay we have formulated a 50:50 blend can be made up of 50% blend to 50% water, so for every kilo of blend, simply add 1kg of water. This means you can accurately weigh the required amount to minimise waste.
Don’t forget about hay
For those on a multi-cut system, there isn’t the regrowth in place to produce the tonnage of quality silage that was planned. However, conditions have been perfect for making quality hay or halyage, something which is often overlooked as a feed source for dairy cows in the UK.
In parts of Europe, hay forms the main part of the milking diet as growing conditions are favourable. When correctly balanced, hay provides the rumen fill required to stimulate rumen function.
While good quality silage is still the number one choice for milking rations in the UK, don’t overlook making good quality hay for its inclusion in youngstock and heifer diets, as it allows silage to be saved for the milking herd.
Managing the heatwave
The hot and dry weather appears to be staying, so it’s worth putting plans in place to avoid the heat directly impacting production. Housing cows during the day and grazing in the evening can help maintain milk quantity and quality. If buffer feeding, splitting it into two feeds a day will support feed intakes, with 40% fed in the morning and the remainder in the evening when it’s cooler.
I would also recommend lowering stocking densities where possible and it’s worth considering culling the bottom 5% in the herd. The less productive cows are taking valuable forage reserves and with the cull cow trade fairly buoyant, it could prove financially worthwhile to reduce numbers slightly now to save on forage.
The weather is out of our control, but there are steps we can take to help manage the situation and putting plans in place now will prove very worthwhile.
Wynnstay Dairy Specialist
m: 07502 311181