28 July 1995

BOCM Pauls knows weigh to go with cows

FEED compounder BOCM Pauls has invested £500,000 in new dairy facilities at its Barhill Dairy Unit, Whitchurch, Cheshire. It hopes to monitor forage intakes, cow weights and milk performance.

BOCM Pauls cattle specialist Bruce Woodacre says weighing dairy cows regularly is essential to predict maintenance needs and daily dry matter intakes. When weight is under-estimated cows may be underfed energy and fail to maximise use of forage.

Facilities at the unit include a £10,000 automatic weighing crush to record weight after each milking. Mr Woodacre believes effective rationing depends on knowing the cows weight throughout lactation and the dry period. "Heifers should reach 85% of their target mature weight pre-calving and it is important to know how much they need to grow over the first two lactations," he says. By weighing a cow throughout lactation it is easier work out her performance potential and feeding needs.

Farmers do not need the same degree of precision as at Barhill but visual assessment is not accurate enough for estimating weight. An adequate farm weighing system can be set up for about £800.

And cows should be condition scored frequently during lactation to monitor fat reserves and changes in response to milk yield and feeding. "At various stages of lactation condition scoring helps to get the best out of cows," he says.n

Hokofarm automatic feeders from Holland, installed at BOCM Pauls Barhill dairy unit, will provide forage intake data and feeding patterns for individual cows. Transponders record data and control entry to feed boxes allowing different forage mixes to be fed to cows in the same group.