Welcome to our Spring update! We have put together some information that we think will be relevant this season, especially for forward planning and not missing those key dates.
Joining & Energy
This spring we have seen many overcast days with a late finish to winter and delayed pasture growth rates. Without sufficient sunny days, perennial and annual grasses have had higher than expected impacts on herd health from the Non Protein Nitrogen (NPN) levels in the grass that are out of proportion to sugar content. This has been evident on some farms from high MU/MUN levels and visible in cows through stop-start urination and hot manure.
Following this issue, becoming more widespread is the rapid change from vegetative grass to reproductive, with greater proportions of the grass as stem, causing lower energy and protein and higher NDF, meaning all of a sudden we aren’t feeding the energy we thought!
So with joining on our doorstep, here are some checks to make sure we are meeting the needs of our joining cows.
Is there too much NPN and stop-start urination?
If so, make sure ad lib salt is available and call one of our ruminant experts to assess the joining ration.
Is there greater than 45% NDF in the pasture? Is a large proportion of the grass stem, with not as much green leaf?
If so, consider adjusting the rotation to prevent stem elongation and the pasture going reproductive.
Is there enough useable grass on offer? Have a look and assess how much of the pasture is barley grass that the cows won’t touch, and then how much available grass we have left.
Remember, for conception we want a rising plain of nutrition and spare energy to tell the cow she is in a positive position to grow a calf!
Summer is almost here and soon the temperature will start rapidly increasing! Even if there are only a few extra hot days to be wary of, cows start feeling the pressure anywhere over 240C, without any cooling methods we could be looking at loss production both now and in the future.
A cow’s comfort zone sits between -15 and 24C, any hotter and we are out of the cows thermoneutral zone and she has to use up to 30% of her energy to try remain cool. To make this easier on the herd, and give ourselves a quick reminder, here are some starting points.
Two simple things we can do to increase cow comfort and maintain appetite:
Make sure all water troughs are clean as cows need to consume up to 200+ litres of water per day. Especially focus on the trough at the exit of the dairy, as cows will often choose to get 40-70% of their daily requirement at this point.
Sprinklers and fans to cool the cows.
Cooling hows for at least one hour will have residual affects and improve post milking grazing.
Make sure droplet size is large and does not cause humidity, as this further stress the cow.
Milk earlier in the morning and in the afternoon, milking while it is hot means the cows are relieved of the hot paddock and can stand under sprinklers, then head back to graze when the sting is out of the sun.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our ruminant experts on how we can mitigate losses this summer.
Maintaining Heifer Growth Rates
As we prepare to come off high nutrient dense spring grass into summer, we need to keep an eye on our heifers so they don't start slipping backwards, instead of maintaining consistent daily growth to reach calving weight by Autumn.
In the 2016 Spring we saw perennial pastures mature rapidly, increasing Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) in grass diets beyond sixty percent, resulting in reduced energy density that caused a significant impact on animal performance.
To maintain growth weights this Spring, Lets first look at - Fill or Food? Heifers may look full with plenty of feed on offer, but are we underfeeding them? It is a good idea to have a look at the nutrient density of what we are offering, so that we can simply make sure there will be no surprises come joining or calving.
If we are are feeding out or grazing dry standing feed, a quick feed test is a simple way to get an accurate calculation to ensure there is enough energy and identify any shortfalls. It's an easy time of year to come short on energy.
Lastly, don't forget to clean troughs to provide clean, cool water, especially in summer!
Goal: 110 total MJME, 15% protein and 10 kgDM per head
Silage.. Is it cheap feed?
If done well... yes! However, If the quality is poor, it's expensive due to losses in wastage and animal performance. The weather often gets in the way, but there are things we can do to manage this and conserve good quality home grown forage.
We need to test it, learn from it to make a plan for next year and, do everything possible to cut at the right time and keep that oxygen out.
Feed testing the 2017 cut 6-8 weeks after ensiling is vital for maintaining high production through summer by understanding how to create a complimentary ration for maximum feed utilisation.
Call one of our consultants to request a feed test kit to drop past the next time we are in your area.