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Maximizing milk revenue from here to year end

Maximizing milk revenue from here to year end

Peak production yield has come and gone but there’s a lot of valuable milk to flow yet. From here to year end, milk volume should drop gradually while milk protein and butterfat percentages should increase steadily.

Our milk peak production in 2022 is down on 2021. Lower peak production doesn’t necessarily mean lower annual yield. Lowering the peak production can flatten the supply curve, leading to a slower annual decline from that peak but the same overall annual milk supply.  On average milk declines at c.2% per week from peak.  Underfeeding can accelerate this decline.  Maintaining energy intakes will slow this decline.

To take advantage of this year’s high milk prices we need to maintain cow energy intakes and milk yields as high as possible from here to year end.

The cost of an accelerated Yield Decline

Assuming a 1.5% weekly decline and a 50c/ltr milk price your cows will produce c. €1600 worth of milk from here to year end.  If that decline increases to 2.5%, your cows will produce €1425 worth of milk.

This equates to €17,500 lost milk revenue from here to year end for a 100 cow herd.  During times of slow growth, if intakes are not maintained its not unsurprising to see a weekly decline of 5-10%.  It is very difficult in later lactation to arrest this decline once it starts.

Milk Protein %:

Milk protein % should increase to year end as milk yield declines. However, milk protein % often plateaus in July before kicking on again from August to year end. A milk protein % plateau is a sign of poor energy nutrition.


In July a cow that peaked at 25ltrs will produce c.550-650 ltrs of milk (depending on how you control the yield decline).  At current prices if that milk is 0.2% lower in protein than it could be it would be costing €11-13 euro per cow or €1100-1300 for a 100 cow herd.  


How do we maximise milk yield and milk protein from here to year end?


  1. Maximise your cow’s intakes of good quality grass
  2. Spread fertiliser, applying 1 unit or nitrogen per day, sulphur, phosphorus and potassium when allowed and appropriate to maximise grass growth.  Slurry, dairy washing, and protected urea all have a role.


  1. Poor grassland management across the summer can result in the build-up and carryover of stem into paddocks. Stemmy paddocks are not only of lower digestibility and energy (UFL) level but they also lead to lower grass intakes. A lower intake of a lower energy feed compounds the issues. Successful grassland management is built around a compromise between adequate daily herbage allowance and post grazing sward height. We must walk the tight rope, of supplying enough grass to meet our cow’s intake requirements, while maintaining adequate grazing pressure to ensure paddocks are grazed out tight enough.


KEY POINT: An increase of 1% in grass digestibility will increase dry matter intake by 0.3-0.4kg DM, supplying enough energy for c.0.75 ltrs of milk.


To maintain grass quality during the mid-summer:

  1. Walk your grass weekly (more frequently during times of high growth)
  2. Create a grass wedge. A grass wedge looks at how your farm is fixed for grass now and over the coming weeks.
  3. Graze paddocks at 1400-1600kg/ha and down to 4cm. Grazing paddocks at the correct pre-grazing covers and to the correct post grazing heights, increases utilisation and maintains grass quality (digestibility).


Is there a place for topping or pre-mowing?

Certainly, the most economical way to get down to 4cm is with your cows. Higher yielding cows struggle to attain the energy they need on grass as they cannot eat enough of it. Be wary of asking these types of cows to graze to 4cm as this may result in intake restriction and milk yield drops. In these situations, getting the topper out and maintaining grass quality is the priority.


  1. Feed concentrates in balance with grass. Have one eye on milk yield decline and one on post grazing sward heights. We must achieve a balance between the two.  Be mindful of any growth issues, adding sufficient concentrates and or a buffer if needed to meet our cow’s intake requirements during these times.


Feeding concentrates in balance with grass

Good production with poorly grazed paddocks is not where you want to be. Can you increase the grazing pressure to achieve better graze out? Use the topper to manage post grazing sward heights?


Poor production with poorly grazed paddocks is definitely not where you want to be. Excessive grass does not have the same milk carrying potential as on-target grass. Manage surplus grass to improve both production and graze out.


Poor production with over grazed paddocks is definitely definitely not where you want to be. Feed

more concentrates or introduce round bales to relax grazing pressure. If your farm cover drops too low, your grass will be slow to return when conditions improve.


Your production with all feeding scenarios is relative to your herd and your cows EBI. If your neighbour has a jersey crossed herd and you don’t, all the feeding in the world won’t fill the protein or fat gap. Feeding will only allow your cows to express their genetic potential.



If grass growth declines across the summer, you need to lower grass demand to a level that matches grass growth.

To lower grass demand we can increase concentrate feeding or start buffer feeding some silage and/ or maize, beet, brewers etc. How much additional concentrates, or buffer is needed is dependent on your cows’ demand vs your grass growth rates. Please contact to your ASM for feeding advise if needed.


Soil Moisture deficit and growth

A soil moisture deficit of greater than 25 mil starts to affect grass growth, with a soil moisture deficit of greater than 50 mil grass growth falls of the edge of a cliff.


How quickly do soils dry?

In 2018 soils dried at c.1mil per day or 5-7 mil in a week. However, with dry weather and a drying wind soils will dry at up to 2mil per day.


What is the soil moisture level on my farm?

Soil moisture can vary within townlands and within fields on the same farm, but Met Eireann produce graphs weekly which will give an idea of the soil moisture status of your location.


How much extra concentrates are needed to fill a growth deficit?

If growth decline, we need to increase our concentrate and or buffer feeding levels, so our cows demand for grass is equal to grass growth. The bigger the growth slump the more concentrate and or buffer that will be needed.


Grass demand at 1.5kg of meal and differing stocking rates

Current Diet for 28 kg average

Grass (kg DM) 16.5
Concentrates (kg) 1.5
Stocking Rates (Lu/Ha) 2.5 3 3.5 4
Growth Needed to Meet Demand (Kg DM Per Day) 41 50 58 66


Impact of differing measures on grass growth requirements to meet demand


Stocking rate Lu/Ha)

2.5 3 3.5


+ 1.5kg per head. Total Concentrates feed = 3kg per day

Growth Needed to Meet Demand (Kg DM Per Day) 35 42 49 56
+ 4.5kg per head. Total Concentrates feed = 6kg per day 29 35 40 46
Buffer feed with 1 bale of grass silage per 40 cows 29 35 40 46

The more concentrates and or buffer you add the lower your grass demand.  Walk your farm weekly to establish growth and feed as required to match demand with growth.


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