Can you justify meals feeding?

Sean Keane


Sean Keane

The amount of meal to feed cows depends on: your quota position, the type of cow you have, the amount of grass on the farm and the stocking rate. All of the indicators at present suggest that the country is likely to be over quota by March 31st next.

The amount of meal to feed cows depends on: your quota position, the type of cow you have, the amount of grass on the farm and the stocking rate. All of the indicators at present suggest that the country is likely to be over quota by March 31st next.

If you are likely to be over quota .no meals, should be fed, even to extend the grazing season. If grass or winter fodder is scarce it makes sense to sell cows that are not in-calf or have some problem and take the opportunity to tidy up the herd for 2015. Once per day milking is a worthwhile option and is being taken by many farmers. A quota penalty will spoil the benefits derived to date due to the high milk price.

For those who are within quota and where the average farm grass cover is low due to the recent drought there is an economic response to feeding meals. One kg DM of meal costing 27 cents will produce a response of one kg of milk worth 40 cent plus, leaving a margin over meal of 13 cents. However if grass is plentiful, as it is on many of the heavier farms, cows will replace grass costing 6 cent per kg DM with meal costing 25 – 30 cent per kg DM.

If grass is scarce (relative to budget) or if stocking rate is high, supplements should be introduced, so as to keep grass in the cows’ diet until November (with €1.26 per day more profit).

Silage or maize represents the best value for money next to grazed grass and surplus grass baled from paddocks, but they won’t give as good a performance at grass as meal. Farmers have some very good baled silage (surplus paddocks) available and now is an ideal time to feed it. Therefore, if over quota don’t use meal as a supplement to build up grass but use bales or silage. The ration, if fed, only needs 12-14% protein when fed at grass.

Do’s and don’ts of October grazing

Do graze out the areas in blocks (squarish), not rectangular because less walking damage is done.

Do graze paddocks from the back in wet weather, having walked over good grass at front of paddock.

Do remove animals from fields after 3-4 hours grazing, particularly if conditions are wettish.

Do have several entrances to each paddock.

Do construct permanent or temporary “spur” roads for getting cows into long or awkward fields.

Don’t allow animals roam over large fields of bare pasture.

Don’t allow animals walk over grazed areas to the next grazing area, if the weather is wet

Don’t “strip” graze from the front to the back of the paddock.

Don’t graze animals when it is raining heavily or immediately after rain.

Don’t spend more than 48 hours (ideally 24 hours) grazing any block of grass.

Don’t let animals use dirty roadways or gaps before walking on to “nice” grass.

Don’t graze new reseeds in wet weather.

Don‘t let grass covers get too strong as they take longer to graze.

Don’t let grass cover get too low.

Tips for October

The last date for spreading slurry is October 14 with October 31 the last spreading date for farmyard manure. The exceptions here are farmers in REPS 3, who should have had their slurry tanks emptied by September 1.

Thirteen times a week milking works on farms where the bulk milk SCC level is less than 200,000 cells per ml.

SCC levels are currently rising on dairy farms: tackle suspect cows when the bulk tank count rises above 300,000 cells per ml.

Foot bath your cows early this month and again towards the end of October. This will harden hooves and eliminate Mortellaro disease before housing begins.

Light replacement heifers, both weanlings and in-calf heifers, will respond well to meal feeding at autumn grass. Feed 1.5kg per head per day of a 15% crude protein ration.

First lactation animals that have performed well in their first lactation will be at a body condition score of 2.75 or less as they move through October. These animals will need a dry period of 12 weeks to ensure that they calve down at the correct body condition score next February.

Options for a Better Future

A Teagasc Options for a Better Future Workshop is taking place in the Teagasc Centre, Kells Road, Kilkenny each Wednesday during October at 7.30 p.m. – 9.30 p.m. and will run for 5 consecutive Wednesday’s until October 30th. The Options workshop focuses on providing you with new thinking, generate new ideas, and help create additional income on and off the farm. Those who attend the workshop will hear from farmers who have succeeded at increasing their income, advisers with specialist expertise and Kilkenny Leader Partnership and Kilkenny County Enterprise Board will be on hand to provide information on funding opportunities.

On Wednesday October 16th Marie Kelly, Teagasc will speak on artisan food production and direct selling. Maria Heneghan, Tourism Consultant, will also speak on rural tourism. All are welcome.

On Wednesday October 23rd Dan Clavin, Teagasc Organic Farming specialist will speak on Organic farming and a local organic farmer will discuss his experience.