1 October 1999

Lifting dry matter intake pays boosts y

OBTAINING more milk from high genetic merit cows means ensuring their dry matter intake is as high as possible, as well as ensuring stale cows are kept on the same ration throughout their lactation.

"Increasing milk yield from high PIN cows means boosting the cows intake; without that, theres unlikely to be an increase," said ADASs David Levick.

"Improving the diets palatability and presentation are key requirements for increasing intake, but measuring dry matter intake is also vital."

He cited results from one herd where cows intakes averaged 21.5kg/day and yields were 34 litres.

"Using products to increase ration palatability and presentation increased dry matter intake by 1kg a day, and boosted milk yield to 35.5 litres."

However, he said that in many herds, better management of stale cows could boost output/cow by 1000 litres a lactation.

"High genetic merit cows can dry off at 25 litres, but in many herds they are moved onto a stale cow ration and yields drop to 15 litres."

Mr Levick believes that flat rate feeding one diet to the entire herd will prevent that drop. "Moving stale cows onto another diet will increase their stress levels, leading to a drop in yield.

"Stale cows on a flat rate diet will eat about 16kg DM/head/day and produce 25 litres. That extra 10 litres over 100 days adds up to 1000 litres, and the increase in output is worth £2.09 a cow/day after feed and quota costs.

"Some might argue that you are over-feeding stale cows on a flat rate ration, but their yields are higher, and if their body condition rises thats no bad thing – they will be in better condition for their next lactation."

But he warned that this regime was a long term project – not something that could be undertaken for only one lactation.

"One lactation isnt enough; programming cows for the system means they are likely to do better in the following lactations."

Mr Levick said the same principles could be applied to lower genetic merit cows, but warned the system must be specifically geared so they didnt gain too much condition. &#42