Feeding cattle in bad weather conditions

SOUND ADVICE FOR A COLD AND WINDY APRIL

If cows are indoors, make sure they are fed the best silage available
If cows are indoors, make sure they are fed the best silage available

OLIVER MCGRATH. TEAGASC LISTOWEL

AFTER one of the best March weather conditions we are now experiencing a very wet and cold snap in April.

In north Kerry three inches of rain have fallen in the past three weeks and this amounts to 66,000 gallons on every acre. Grazing conditions are poor, grass dry matters are low and re-growths are poor because of low temperatures.

The only good news is that with much of the land grazed in March, grass quality in second and subsequent rotations should be very good. However until the weather improves we need to ensure all cattle are properly fed. This may mean many cattle will need a combination of grass, meals and silage.

For dairy cows out by day and getting 5 - 7 kgs. of silage D.M. at night, 4 kgs of a high energy ration is needed. If indoors full time 6 - 8 kgs. of ration is required.

Ration Type: If out by day 1416% protein is adequate but if indoors full time, 18% protein is required.

Sample Rations: 16% C.PR. ration 25% barley/wheat, 25% citrus pulp, 25% distillers and 25% maize gluten.

It may be possible to get off the shelf rations, but target specification should be UFL = 0.92 +, CP% = 16 - 18%, starch content 20% or more.

As regards grazing, 2 - 3 hours daily would help maintain performance. Ensure the calcium level in the ration is adequate to protect against grass tetany.

If cows are indoors, feed the best silage available. Round bales are very suitable in times of emergency.

If maiden heifers have to be housed now they should be supplemented with 2 - 3 kgs of a low protein based maeal. It is most important that their diet is not restricted now with the breeding season started.

If suckler cows have to be housed, ensure they get good silage. If the calves can be left out during the day, it will help to maintain performance. Calves will benefit from extra meals during periods of bad weather.

If grass supply is in very short supply, grazing some of the silage ground will help to extend the grazing rotation during spells of bad weather. However, poaching should be avoided at all costs. There will be adequate time during summer to make extra silage.

As regards fertiliser, apply nitrogen fertiliser as soon as conditions allow, but never before heavy rain. If fertilised silage ground is grazed, top up with 30-40 units/acre to ensure a good crop in mid/late June.

Continue with 27- 40 units N/acre on grazing ground.

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