19 August 1997

Pm grazing boost

DAIRY producers could boost milk production by up to 5% by making a simple change to their grazing management.

British scientists revealed at this weeks European Dairy Farming Event (full report next week) that putting cattle onto fresh pasture in the afternoon, instead of in the customary morning can boost milk production by 5%.

Mark Rutter of the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, North Wyke said that cows ate 40% of their daily requirements in one large meal before dusk. It made sense then, when offering just one fresh feed a day, to do so in the afternoon rather than after morning milking.

"We believe there are three main reasons for this increase in production," said Dr Rutter. These are that the animals main meal is before dusk, that leaves accumulate highly digestible sugars over the day, and the percentage of dry matter increases as water is lost from the leaves.

Results of the MDC-funded work also suggest that the effect of giving fresh herbage is greater than time of day effect – so the ultimate would be to give fresh herbage twice a day, giving an even bigger milk boost.

said Dr Rutter. His advice to farmers keen to maximise milk yield off grass is to divide the grazing allocation into two fresh feeds given twice a day – those who can only give fresh feed once a day should do so in the evening.