GrassWatch Secret To Bolster Milk Yields

FARMING U.K - Increase milk production from grass by 500 litres/cow/year without incurring extra costs, says Mole Valley Farmers
calendar icon 16 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Dairy herds which average 8,000 to 10,000 litres per cow per year could increase yield by up to 500 litres per cow per year, worth approximately £12,600 to a 140-cow enterprise, by making better use of grazed grass according to Mole Valley Farmers, whose unique new GrassWatch monitoring service enables producers to maximise milk from grazed grass for no additional expense.

Peter Isaac, a member of the company’s team of Feed Specialists in the South West, commented: “At 3 - 4p/kg dry matter, grazed grass is the cheapest ingredient which farmers can feed to their dairy cows, but 60% per cent of them over-estimate its true value and therefore fail to optimise the benefits of this valuable resource. Consequently, although the top-performing herds achieve more than 4,000 litres/cow/year from forage, the average is still only 2,500 litres/cow/year and most fall well below that figure, providing ample scope for improvement.

“GrassWatch will help farmers to understand precisely what level of nutrition their grass is capable of providing and get the best from it because grazing quality can, and does, vary greatly. Last year, for example, dry matter was the biggest variable and month-to-month fluctuations of over 30 per cent made it very difficult to formulate consistent rations, which is vital because every 1kg/day shortfall in dry matter intake represents two litres of milk production. If not compensated for, that will come from the cow’s body reserves, with a knock-on effect on fertility.”

With Compound feed prices set to rise significantly this summer in line with higher raw materials costs, Mole Valley Farmers says it is vital that farmers optimise milk production from forage. GrassWatch establishes exactly what grazed grass is worth to the individual herd and how much milk they can expect to produce from it.

Mole Valley Farmers’ team of nutritionists sample grass on a monthly basis from March through until November across the company’s trading area from Wiltshire to Cornwall. This generates comprehensive information on dry matter, energy, crude protein, NDF and sugar contents, which when combined with detailed information about grass availability on individual farms, can be used to estimate the potential milk yield from forage, help to overcome nutritional shortfalls and highlight ways in which grazing management can be improved to better realise its potential.

GrassWatch can also include more comprehensive herd details and use them to generate the total potential milk yield from forage and concentrates. This enables the company’s nutritionists to tailor the use of compound feed to precisely meet individual herd requirements, generating further savings and/or increased production.

“Our Members expect us to help them get more out of their businesses and recommend what is in their best interests,” says Peter Isaac. “The GrassWatch service costs them nothing apart from a small amount of management time, yet has the potential to generate significant additional income.”

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