Farmers warned not overload on concentrates to compensate for energy deficit in cows
Dairy farmers are being advised to prioritise the highest quality silage to milking cows.
Joe Kelleher, Teagasc dairy advisor based in Newcastle West, Co Limerick says where silage DMD is poor (<68DMD) and supplies are tight, there is an increased risk of causing digestive problems (acidosis, displaced abomasum) by 'slug-feeding' concentrate to correct an energy deficit.
Rumen health should take priority in these situations so be mindful of overloading concentrates in the diet. It may indeed be best to use once-a-day milking on thin freshly calved cows to reduce BCS loss and correct energy levels.
Some guideline diets, with different silage qualities and quantities available, are listed in the table below. The diets are shown for three silage types and for where there are adequate (A-C) or restricted (D-F) silage stocks available.
These diets are for a full-time indoor situation and are for fresh calved cows milking at 24-26 litres and rising. Beet pulp is used instead of hulls where silage is in short supply to increase overall energy intake.
These example diets may be implemented in the short term where low average farm covers and/or ground conditions dictate that grass must be excluded from diet.
However, given the cost and complication associated with these feeding plans, getting cows back to grass must be a priority. Grazing by day alone would reduce the parlour-fed concentrate input by approx 2.0 to 2.5kg in the scenarios outlined, and would eliminate the need for out-of-parlour meal feeding in situations where silage stocks are adequate.
For example, grazing 6kg DM grass in diet B would mean that hulls could be eliminated and parlour-fed concentrate reduced to approx 5kg. These changes should be made as soon as covers and conditions allow.