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Feeding The Dairy Cow When Forage is Scarce

Feeding The Dairy Cow When Forage is Scarce

Meeting a cow’s intake requirement at present (27ltrs):

  1. Silage, no grass
No Silage restrictionReduce silage intake by 25%Reduce silage intake by 50%
Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)
Grass Silage4511.25348.5205
Parlour Nut86.986.986.9
Mid-day Feed2.52.14.53.9
Straw1.51.2
Total5318.1544.517.53417
No. of round bales needed to feed 50 cows per day3 2 1.25
Forage %62%49%37%
Concentrate %38%51%63%

Feeding Schedule: Limit parlour feeding to c.4kg morning and evening, limit midday feeding to 5kg in one go.

 

2. Silage + 5kg DM grass (3-6 hours grazing daily)

No Silage restrictionReduce silage intake by 25%Reduce silage intake by 50%
Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)Fresh Intake (kg)Dry Matter Intake (kg)
Grass Silage307.5235.7153.75
Grazed Grass555
Parlour Feed6.55.686.986.9
Mid-day Feed1.51.3
Total18.117.616.95
No. of round bales needed to feed 50 cows2 1.5 1
Forage %69%61%52%
Concentrate %31%39%48%

Feeding schedule: limit parlour feeding to c.4kg morning and evening, limit mid-day feeding to 5kg in one go.

 

Mid-day Feed:

The mid-day feed can be any beef feed available or any straight raw material. Fibrous based raw materials like soya hulls or beet pulp will work best, but barley, maize meal or palm kernel can also be used to fill the gap.

Mid-day feed options:

Complete FeedsBlendsStraights
Beeflav3 way mix: Barley + soyahulls + glutenSoyahulls, Beetpulp, Palm kernel
Superchoice 14% coarse mixMaize meal, Barley

Avoid feeding more than 3-4 kg of any one individual straight. A blend is safer above these levels. Avoid high levels of cereals in the concentrate.

 

Feeding management of high concentrate diets:

  1. These diets will only work IF roughage intake is being achieved and feeding management is good. There is a high risk of digestive upsets, acidosis, laminitis, displaced abomasum’s (LDA) with these diets, if the concentrate levels are not built up slowly.
  2. Schedule for Building Up:
    • Day 1 replace 10 kg silage with 2 kg of mid-day feed;
    • Day 3 replace another 10 kg silage with 2 kg of mid-day feed;
    • Day 5 replace another 10 kg silage with 2 kg of mid-day feed.
  3. Plenty of access to water – clean out regularly. Consider providing extra water troughs / bins.
  4. Avoid feeding more than 3-4 kg of any one individual straight. A blend or a complete feed is safer above these levels. Avoid high levels of cereals in the concentrate
  5. Avoid sudden changes in diet
  6. Check feeding space is adequate, animals are suffering a lot where feed space is not adequate – feed in yards or under the wire at grass where necessary
  7. Check that mineral requirement is being met – immune system of cows under pressure and ability to fight infections is limited
  8. Take pressure off housing, have ½ animals in, ½ out
  9. Use a buffer such as sodium bicarbonate in the diet (e.g. 200 grams / head / day), feed to milking cows only, do not feed to milking cows.
  10. Check that parlour troughs are being cleaned out before the next batch of cows come into the parlour
  11. Fresh calved or sick cows should be given access to grass plus straw/forage and hulls etc. vets are reporting lots of LDA’s. Letting out 5-6 sick cows onto grass won’t affect the grass budget & will save on vet bills.
  12. Feed 200g of sodium bicarb or 80g AcidBuf per head per day to milking cows if forage <50% of diet, do not feed to dry cows.
  13. Check animals on a regular basis for signs of ill-health.

 

Indicators of dietary imbalance are:

  1. High fats and low proteins = ketosis = lack of energy
  2. Low fats and low proteins = lack of energy
  3. High proteins and low fats = acidosis = lack of structural fibre i.e add some straw where possible.

 

Warning!

When grass becomes available, animals cannot be taken directly off very high concentrate diets and placed back on grass based diets. A slow transition back to a grass based diet will be necessary to avoid permanent damage / mortality in animals.

 

Fertilizer:

Fertilizer N needs to be applied as a priority now. If no nitrogen has been applied to date, the target should be to hit 70 units by April 10th. A bag of Urea (46 units) should be applied as soon as possible. On heavier land consider bringing in contractors with low impact machinery (e.g. ATV spreaders) to guarantee application. Explore all options. Apply P fertilizer after grazing heavy covers to aid root recovery.