With the sun shining, grass growing and ground conditions improving by the day, the majority of farmers are planning to get cows to grass.

Why buffer feed at grass?

The main constraint cows experience at grass is a shortage of energy, mainly due to relatively low intake capacities from grazed grass. The potential consequences of this lack of energy, particularly in high yielding and early lactation cows usually follow this order;

1.  Excessive loss of condition in early lactation {mainly undetected until well advanced}

2. Poor fertility {not noticed until much of the damage is done and cows are returning to service}

3. Poor milk protein production {also not apparent until much of the damage is done}

4. Loss in milk yield

Before you put your cows to grass, consider your early lactation and high yielding cows before all else. If herd feeding is planned for your average cows, then high yielders and early lactation cows will suffer. The damage is not usually detected until much of the damage is done (Steps 1-4). It can be quite  easy for a farmer not to realise that cows who are out grazing under a blue sky with sun on their backs can be losing between 1-2kg BW per day.

Do you measure your grass to accurately calculate daily dry matter intakes of cows. Dry matter intakes of cows are often over estimated. As a rule of thumb, cows can consume 1kg dry matter of grass for every hour of sunlight (exclude milking times). However if grass is wet (keeping in mind we live in Scotland) dry matter intake capacity is further reduced.

 

Below is a table assuming a daily dry matter intake of 14kg.

 Are your cows realistically eating this?

Fresh Grass Requirements at different Dry Matter and Energy

Total ME Supplied

(MJ/cow/day)

Grass ME

(MJ/kg DM)

Grass DM

(%)

Fresh Grass Requirement

(kg/cow/day)

120 10 16 75
121 10 22 55
144 12 16 75
145 12 22 55

What should the buffer consist of?

First cut silage or wholecrop are the best choice. Adding concentrates to the forage is essential for high yielding cows. The level will depend on yield aspirations and forage quality. Low dry matter feeds such as brewer’s grains and vegetable waste etc should be avoided as grazed grass typically has low dry matter also. Too many wet products limit intake and therefore energy.

Speak to one of the representatives at Roadhead to discuss your current situation. We can advise on the best time of day to buffer feed (very important), what should the buffer consist of, how long to buffer feed for etc. These are essential steps for successful buffer feeding.

 

Together we can plan the best solution for greater profitability and efficiency on your farm.