TYPE MUST RISE TO MEET HIGH YIELDS
AS YIELDS increase so must functional type, or cows are quickly culled, increasing production costs.
Wil Armitage, farm manager at Keythorpe Lakes Farm, Tugby, Leics, said the 140-head milking herd averaged 11,500kg of milk and he aimed to continue breeding cows to produce high volumes of milk. But type is needed to maintain that production, so he uses sires with a minimum type merit score of 2.5.
"High production sires often lack type and their daughters have left the herd before their third lactation," said Mr Armitage.
He believes high genetic merit cows should be milked to their potential, revealing their true genetic value.
"But management still has to catch up with genetics. I believe we are reaching 80% of the cows potential, so there is still 20% wastage."
Peak output feeding
One of the biggest challenges is feeding cows at peak yields of up to 86kg of milk.
That needs a balanced ration which includes quality, forages. Then cows can adjust intake to support that potential.
Mr Armitage believes in feeding a high-quality total mixed ration, with high protein and energy grass silage, fermented and alkaline treated whole-crops, and a compound meal high in fermentable energy.
"For some high yielding cows grazed grass is the most expensive feed." It can cause yields to drop when cows are producing over 45 litres, he said. Grazing is, therefore, restricted for the highest yielding group. These cows graze only in the evenings for three to seven hours.
Lower yielding cows, producing up to 40 litres, have access to grass for 16 hours by day in summer and are housed at night to allow feeding of silage and concentrates.
Dry cow management was also important, said Mr Armitage.
"The dry period is where you have most influence on the cows next lactation." Good management can help reduce metabolic disorders and increase feed intake, yield and milk quality more quickly after calving.
At Keythorpe Lakes dry cows go into a transition barn three to four weeks before calving and are fed a ration which includes anionic salts and a yeast product. From a week before calving they are fed a proportion of the fresh calvers ration to increase dry matter intakes.
While Mr Armitage uses information and advice on managing high-yielding cows from the US, he said feeding them in the UK was different because our climate is unlike theirs and our forage quality poorer. High genetic merit UK cows could not be fed the same as in either the US or New Zealand, he added. *
• High-quality forage.
• Controlled grazing intakes.
• Good dry cow management.