Monday 1 February 2021Dairy Farmer - Buffer Feeding Dairy Cows at Spring Turnout

Published in the Dairy Farmer 

At spring turnout, the transition between a controlled winter ration and new spring grass can be tricky. If milk yields suffer too much of a back-step, it’s hard to rectify the problem throughout the grazing season. So how can you make the most of new grass by controlling the diet and introducing buffer feeds?

Early grass offers high energy but low fibre, which can compromise production of all-important butterfats. Lots of energy in grass might seem like a good thing, but the high-sugar / low-fibre profile of spring grass means quicker fermentation in the rumen and rapid passage through the digestive system. This fast fermentation can upset rumen pH and increase the risk of acidosis. In the longer term, as well as causing reduced butterfats, a sugar-rich diet that lacks fibre can also lead to loss of body condition and suppressed fertility.

In spring, buffer feeding dairy cows is the tried-and-tested way of achieving a nutritious ration that supports milk quality alongside animal wellbeing. Duynie’s Power Mix is a palatable moist blend that’s high in digestible fibre and readily fermentable starch. By introducing bypass protein, it complements the front-end protein found in energy-rich grass, balancing the ration. As well as containing the fibre essential for maintaining butterfats, it delivers appropriate starches to support milk production, too. This is especially important for early lactation and high-yielding cows.

For bovine digestion to be efficient, RDP (rumen degradable protein from grass) and DUP (digestible undegraded protein from feeds such as brewers grains) must work together. Grass alone can’t deliver the nutritional balance needed to meet the challenges of maintaining body condition, producing milk and sustaining fertility. Cows are at risk of hypomagnesaemia (grass staggers) if the diet is unbalanced and supplementary feeding is insufficient. Wet conditions can lead to difficult grazing conditions, with grass providing less dry matter and lower magnesium levels. By boosting mineral intake through buffer feeding you can support productivity, while avoiding vets bills and even cow mortality.

Costs of production loss in the dairy herd

Extended calving index

£2.50 to £4 per day

Loss of 8,000 litres

£240 per cow

Milk losses of a 150 cow herd

£36,000 per lactation

At turnout time, be aware of the risks of over-feeding parlour compound to compensate for lack of nutrients in grass. As well as increasing rumen pH and causing acidosis, it can lead to lower grass intake due to resting after milking.

Offering Power Mix instead – with its tempting smell and palatable taste – means encouraging uptake isn’t difficult. Feeding from field troughs reduces competition and ensures all cows have the chance to get an appropriate ration. Alternatively, the mix can be fed inside, an hour before milking. By introducing Duynie Power Mix gradually over two to three weeks, the transition from winter ration will be less shocking to digestive bacteria, milk yields will be preserved and welfare protected.

 

Ration 1

Ration 2

Ration 3

Ration 4

Feed (kg)

Grazing & Parlour Compound

Reduced Grazing & Parlour Compound  *Wet Day*

 

Grazing & Buffer Feed of Silage & Blend

Grazing & Buffer Feed of Power Mix

Grazing grass

70.0

50.0

50.0

50.0

Grass silage

0.0

0.0

3.0

3.0

Maize silage

0.0

0.0

7.0

7.0

18% Parlour Compound

8.0

8.0

6.0

4.0

Dairy 20% Blend

0.0

0.0

2.5

0.0

Duynie Power Mix

0.0

0.0

0.0

8.0

Nutritional Analysis

 

 

 

 

DMI (kg)

19.5

15.9

19.6

19.3

DM (%)

25.1

27.5

28.6

26.8

CP (%DM)

19.7

18.7

18.9

17.8

M/D

(MJ/KgDM)

12.0

12.1

11.9

12.1

NDF (%DM)

40.0

38.2

39.4

39.1

Starch and Sugars (%DM)

20.6

23.1

21.3

23.7

Total cost of ration

£3.58

£3.14

£3.65

£3.44

 

Based on a 30-litre milk cow, these sample rations show nutrient analysis and cost. On wet days when cows graze for a shorter period and consume less, the parlour compound can’t make up for lost nutrients, meaning milk yield drops or body reserves are used. In this example, the energy deficit equals 10 litres of milk lost. Drawing on body reserves has a negative impact on cow health and fertility, leading to further productivity loss. 

Using Duynie power mix as part of a buffer feeding ration helps reduce the amount of parlour compound needed, maximizes uptake and maintains a balanced ration throughout the grazing period.

 

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