19 January 1996

Feed cuts last option for over quota milk men

By Jonathan Riley

MILK producers in danger of exceeding quota should avoid cutting feed in early lactation.

Instead, independent dairy consultant Dr Jonathan Blake advises planning quota use carefully, setting monthly and weekly aims for reducing milk yields in line with remaining quota.

Changing feed levels should be the last option after considering culling or drying off cows.

"Otherwise you may at the very least be affecting fertility and the long-term calving pattern, or worse, incur long-term production problems with heifers as a result of poor feeding," says Dr Blake.

"When changing diets is the only option, alter the energy density of the diet – that is, feed less energy per mouthful for it is difficult to accurately control intake," he says.

"The cow must be in good condition for the next production cycle so drop energy levels gradually. Only reduce the amount of concentrate with a great deal of care and advice.

"Alternatively bulk up the diet with straw or treated straw, feed sugar beet pulp or move to a lower energy concentrate with more fibre while remembering to include the correct balance of vitamins and minerals," he says.

Remember when calculating yield reductions that replacing starchy feeds, such as soda wheat, maize gluten, wheat feed, maize silage, with fibrous feeds will increase fat content by 0.1 to 0.2% and reduce protein, he adds.

ADAS south-west dairy consultant Pete Kelly suggests the first option for those seeking to reduce production is to sell barren cows early or cull out mastitic or low genetic merit cows.

"When drying off look to the late lactation and work back through the herd and dry off any cows due to calve up to mid-June."

Removed from year

This removed milk from the current quota year without altering next years planned production, because these cows would have been dry from the start of the quota year to mid-June anyway.

"If there are no calves on the farm, milk can be fed to yearlings or back to cows. This should be introduced gradually over a week, and roughly speaking 5litres of milk equals 1kg of concentrate," he says.

Mr Kelly warns that the diet of cows facing an extended dry period should be managed carefully.

Reduce the silage offered by a quarter to about 7kg and instead offer straw. When silage is short offer maize gluten at 2kg to 3kg a head a day, he adds.