More research is needed into use of grazed grass and high genetic merit cows. Sue Rider reports from the Irish Grassland Associations 50th anniversary conference
USE of high indexing cows, grazed grass and high digestibility grass silage alongside moderate levels of a high protein concentrate is the formula for profitable autumn milk production.
In outlining the key features of such a system, Dr Sinclair Mayne of Hillsborough, the Agriculture Research Institute of Northern Ireland, told the Irish Grassland Associations 50th Anniversary Dairy Conference held at Limerick that high genetic merit was essential. But when harnessing its benefits, he urged producers to resist the temptation to also increase feed and capital costs.
"The high merit cow has the ability to produce more milk and the temptation is to push her harder. But when we do that we risk losing many of the advantages of high genetic merit," he said.
There was no evidence to suggest high genetic merit cows would respond any differently to extra concentrate feeding. They just produced more milk than medium merit animals, irrespective of concentrate level.
On average, the high merit cow ate about 10% more feed on a grass silage and concentrate system, and would give 15% more milk. "The net effect is that for every kg of feed eaten, she gives 6.3% more milk, so she is inherently more efficient," said Dr Mayne.
• High genetic merit cows.
• Maximum use of grazed grass.
• High digestibility grass silage.
Sward management of late and early grass growth is a neglected area.