Dairy yields and health improve on back of feed regime

Key changes in nutrition and other management practices have helped Lancashire dairy farmer Sam Dickinson (pictured below right) increase production and boost Margin over Purchased Feed (MOPF) by £230.66.

Working with Mark Scott (pictured below left), technical manager with KW Alternative Feeds, Mr Dickinson has increased annual production a cow from 7,917 litres to 9,043 litres, and MOPF from £1,939.66 to £2,170.32.

Milk constituents have also improved from 4.11% butterfat and 3.28% protein in 2009 to 4.29% and 3.24% respectively.

Mark Scott & Sam Dickinson

Dry cow nutrition

One of the key areas addressed to help boost production was dry cow nutrition. Working with his feed advisor, Mr Dickinson went from feeding silage to dry cows to implementing a controlled energy dry cow ration. This consisted of silage plus 3.5kg straw, plus straights to balance, and good-quality dry cow mineral and magnesium chloride.

This meant cows were not gaining weight in the dry period, and the rumen was primed for lactation. Cows calved more easily and were able to transition smoothly on to the production ration, explains Mr Dickinson.

The balance of mineral plus magnesium chloride also meant milk fever was virtually eliminated, leading to further improvement in transition management. Cows were in better health and condition to go on to milk to potential during lactation.

Feed Adviser Register facts

  • Launched in May this year by the Agricultural Industries 
Confederation (AIC)
  • To date 1,000 advisers have signed up for the register
  • Aims to assure the standards of advice in livestock nutrition
  • Feed advisers and animal nutritionists with two years’ or more proven experience can join the register as full members
  • Farmers can obtain details of advisers on the register by visiting the website at www.feedadviserregister.org.uk

Increasing yields was not only down to bought feeds, but moves were taken to increase the quality of silage. A decision was taken to move towards more reseeding and, at the same time, maximise the use of grass.

As a result milking cows have stayed in for the whole of 2013, so reducing variation in the diet and subsequently yield. Mr Dickinson says since cows have been housed indoors yields have increased up to about 30 litres a cow a day.

Using the expertise of his feed advisor Mr Dickinson has also made a number of other changes to the diet. These include:

  • The use of wheat syrup plus wheat feed to replace reducing volumes or availability of Trafford Gold during 2012-13. This also supplied a balance of rumen protein.
  • A move from soya to protected soya to deliver concentrated bypass protein to move yields on without overfeeding crude protein.
  • The use of fodder beet as an energy source which encouraged intakes and reduced bought feed costs (when appropriate).
  • The use of yeasts and buffers where appropriate to limit the impact of changing forages and heat stress in the summer.

Milking

Mr Dickinson did consider moving to three times a day milking to improve yields, but after consulting with his feed advisor Mr Scott, this idea was abandoned and the herd has now moved to 12-hour splits between milkings (from 5.30am and 3.30pm to 4.30 both ends of day). This change has added two litres a cow to yield, which rose to 33 litres a cow a day in May and June this year.

Mr Dickinson says being able to trust his advisor has been vital when making such changes. “There is a lot of trust involved when a farmer takes on a feed adviser and he or she has a great deal of responsibility.

“As a result of Mark’s advice, we make major decisions about expenditure within the business. Also his advice has a big influence on the welfare of the animals. That is why ensuring your adviser has the right qualifications is critical.”

Feed Adviser Register

Both Mark and Sam can see benefits from the new Feed Adviser Register introduced by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).

Mr Scott says: “I think the establishment of a register for the livestock feed sector is long overdue. For many years we have had BASIS and FACTS for pesticides and fertilisers, but nothing comparable for feed. It is important we have a credible scheme so that those giving advice are qualified and their expertise can be verified.”

Mr Dickinson adds: “I think that the Feed Adviser Register is valuable to both the farmer and the nutrition adviser. As farmers, we need something that demonstrates that people coming on to farm have the appropriate qualifications and can be trusted to give the right advice.”

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