28 July 1995

Dont forget the nitty-gritty of dairy herd management

Management of high-yielding cows both in lactation and the dry period was put under the spotlight at the ADASBridgets Elite herd sponsors open day. Jonathan Riley reports

GOOD basic management principles are as important in high yielding herds as good genetics, says Robert Bull, herd manager at ADAS Bridgets Research Centre, Martyr Worthy, Hants.

"Of key importance is maintaining the dry matter intake of the cow throughout the year and especially during the dry period," he said.

At Bridgets cows are run at up to 20 a ha in the three weeks up to calving and offered straw ad-lib.

Feeding straw in the dry period led to a greater rumen capacity at the onset of milking and encouraged higher feed intakes to sustain milk production.

"Quality and palatability for the cow, is also important in maintaining dry matter intakes and milk production," said Mr Bull.

"Farmers must ensure that silage is as fresh as possible and remove it from the clamp no longer than two hours before feeding to the cow," he said.

"At the trough, all fresh food should be pushed up, so that it is easier for the cow to feed.

"Stale food should be removed, feed areas swept clean and bins maintained and cleaned regularly," said Mr Bull.

"Sampling silage stocks regularly is vital. This year we realised the quality of bagged silage we had made was falling and took the decision to re-clamp 80t of this silage."

After rolling the silage extensively, staff at ADAS Bridgets applied salt to the top and have halted the fall in quality.

As for herd health, Mr Bull said it was important all herds took a preventative approach. "In a high yielding herd, this is doubly important because in addition to an initial disease, a secondary metabolic disorder often occurs, exaggerating the effect on milk yields," he said.

"Mastitis is often a major concern for the manager of high yielding cows because higher yields cause faster flow rates and generally wider teat orifices that are easier for bacteria to invade," he said.

"Every effort is now being made to reduce cell counts and clinical mastitis. We are using a teat spray before and after milking, lifting and cleaning mats every week, and applying 1kg of hydrated lime a week onto the mat and applying lime underneath each month," said Mr Bull. Loose-housed and cubicle-housed cows are bedded daily.

"We now have 64% of our cows in the 1-100,000 cells/ml level as opposed to 45% 12 months ago, and are moving some way towards a target of having in excess of 90% of our cows with below 100,000 cells/ml," he said.

Bridgets herd manager Robert Bull….it is vital to maintain intakes during the dry

period.