Dairy: Switching to zero meal strategy requires some smart planning
I have never seen a May like the one just gone by in Ireland. The tough spring is now a distant memory, and low cost milk is the order of the day, especially as AI draws to an end and a good number of farmers have stopped feeding meal to cows.
If grass quality is maintained, removing meal - depending on stocking rate, cow type and body condition score - can be a great move especially when it results in a maintenance of milk yield, butterfat and protein percentages.
Production from herds on zero meal feeding is ranging from 2 to 1.6kg/MS per cow. With most herds having fed up to 250-400kg meal per cow to date, zero meal feeding in summer will aid in cost control, which is a major positive given the low milk prices.
Spring meal feeding rates were significantly higher than 2015, and removing meal at this stage may be your best option if you are hoping to keep costs down.
Merchant credit to farms has also been rising throughout the spring. On the other hand, the ability to pay it off for many has been moving later by a few months compared to other seasons where milk price was higher or feeding rates were lower.
If you are giving zero meal feeding serious consideration, being on top of your game in terms of grass management will be an important step.
A cow being fed zero meal will need top quality pasture to maintain production levels and improved fat and protein percentages as the season progresses.
As grass growth has forged ahead in recent weeks, the removal of surpluses has been tricky in terms of decision-making, as the weather improved.