26 May 1995

Regime has many benefits

Brian Doble keeps dry cows stocked tightly and offers baled grass silage, ad-lib straw and 1kg of dry cow cake. Over-fat animals receive no baled silage.

INCREASED milk protein is just one benefit of improved dry cow management at Oxon producer Brian Dobles Shiplake Farm, Henley-on-Thames.

Dry cow rations for his 155-cow herd were changed last summer on the advice of Wilts-based nutrition consultant Dr Mike Tame. The response has been marked.

Milk proteins from November to March have averaged 3.4%. That is 0.16% higher than in the previous year and has secured an average margin over purchased feed of 21.5p/litre since November.

"Since the changes we have seen less retained cleansings and milk fever incidence has reduced considerably," says Mr Doble.

Good news all round

Herdsman Tony Potterton also likes the new regime. "Last year we had fewer assisted calvings, leaving a live calf for every calving, and we saw less mastitis," he says. He claims it is also easier to examine and check the udders of dry cows at grass when they are being fed in troughs.

Consultant Dr Tame recommended feeding 1kg of concentrate to all cows throughout the dry period to prevent the need for lots of groups. The concentrate used contains 25% crude protein, is high in digestible undegradable protein (DUP) and has high levels of trace minerals and vitamins. Dr Tame says that with more maize being fed, which is low in trace minerals, it is vital to pay attention to the dry period. He claims the dry cow feed is cost effective.

In previous years Mr Doble had grouped dry cows, restricted grazing and fed low quality silage and straw for the eight-week dry period. Now at drying off cows are split into two groups according to body condition. Thinner cows are fed baled grass silage, ad-lib straw and 1kg of the dry cow concentrate. Fatter animals are offered ad lib straw, 1kg of the cake and kept on bare pasture.

All cows join the silage-fed group three weeks before calving regardless of condition. Mr Doble claims that if cows are to perform well in early lactation they must be offered a silage-based ration at calving to prepare the rumen bugs for their milking ration.

Lactating cows are kept in three groups and complete diet-fed a ration of maize and grass silage, caustic-treated wheat, soya, sugar beet shreds and fishmeal. &#42

&#8226 Farm size: 400ha (1000 acres) rented; 120ha (300 acres) owned.

&#8226 Stocking: 155 Holstein Friesian cows, 94 followers, 75 beef cattle.

&#8226 Cropping: 25ha (62 acres) maize, all of which can be irrigated, plus wheat, barley, oilseed rape and linseed.

&#8226 Herd performance: 5696 litres/cow; £1043/cow margin over purchased feed.