Improved dry cow management practices have tightened calving pattern

Denis O’Connor milks 65 spring calving cows on the family farm at Ballyhooleen, Ballinhassig, Co. Cork, which was passed onto him by his parents Patrick and Theresa.  The herd production average is 1,400 gallons at 4.01% fat and 3.53% protein.  Calving this year will get underway on January 24th.
The key management objective for the herd is to make best use of grazed grass. Looking to the future Denis will consider increasing cow number to 70 beyond 2015.

Making best use of grazed grass is key management objective.

“This should be feasible as I am now using AI on maiden heifers,” Denis explained. “In the past I would have run maiden heifers with an Angus bull. I am also striving to calve heifers at 24 months, which means that I should be able to hit a target of 70 in the milking group for the spring of 2015.”
Denis is also committed to increasing milk yield per cow as a means of increasing overall milk output, once milk quotas come to an end.
“To do this will require the cows being in milk for more days in the year. It will also require me bringing the average calving dates forward. I am committed to getting the bulk of the herd calving in January and February,” he commented.
“In this regard, managing the cows properly through the dry period is crucially important and, of course, ensuring that fertility levels are maximised thereafter.”
Despite the challenges of the weather in 2012 and the poor grazing conditions created, Denis is happy with the condition of the herd in the run up to this year’s calving season.
“I  took two cuts of silage last year,” he confirmed.
“DMD values are excellent, in the range 68 to 73%. However, protein values are very low.”

DMD values are excellent – protein values however are very low.

Dairygold advisor Denis McCarthy was a recent visitor to the O’Connor farm. He was accompanied by Alltech’s John Lawlor. The Dairygold representative explained that it was not uncommon for dairy farmers in the Macroom area to have made very low protein silages last year.
“Normally, I would expect silage protein values to be in the region of 13% to 14%,” he pointed out.

“However, for 2012 the figure is more likely to range from 7% to 10%. Low sunshine levels throughout the growing season played a major part in bringing this about”
Denis O’Connor works back from a cow’s calving date, when it comes to drying her off.
“Cows that are that little bit thinner and heifers at the end of their first lactation will get an extra month’s rest and recuperation. By taking that approach, it is possible to build up body condition. I aim to have the cows calving at a body condition score of 3.0,” he explained

Silage is supplemented with PreCalver GOLD 8 eight weeks precalving.
Denis supplements the silage offered to the dry cows with Dairygold’s PreCalver Gold mineral 8 weeks prior to calving. He has taken this approach for the past three years. Significantly, he has found it has led to a reduction in retained cleanings and metabolic disorders. Calves are also born with plenty of vigour and colostrum quality is excellent.
“I have also noticed the cows calve much more quickly. They also join the milking group, reaching peak output very soon thereafter. There has also been a very noticeable improvement in cow fertility, which is allowing me to bring forward the average calving dates for the herd,” Denis commented.
PreCalver Gold contains high levels of Phosphorous and Magnesium; Selenium, in the form of Sel-Plex , Vitamin E, Vitamin D plus Bio-Plex Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
“PreCalver Gold has an extremely high specification, from both a mineral and vitamin perspective,” Denis McCarthy explained.
“The Selenium and other trace minerals are included in their most bioactive forms. As a result they will travel unhindered to their specific metabolic sites within the animals.”
The Dairygold advisor also made the point that milk producers should offer low Potash silages to their dry cows.
“Forages that are high in Potassium will lock up minerals such as Magnesium, thereby pre-disposing cows to a higher risk of Milk Fever and other metabolic disorders around calving time,” he stressed.
Ongoing innovation has been a hallmark of Dairygold’s commitment to milk producers for many years. And, in this regard, 2013 will be no different. During his recent farm visit Denis McCarthy explained that the co-op had just launched a new 16% protein pre calver compound feed which has been specifically designed to allow milk producers meet the exact nutritional requirements of their cows in a single formulation.
“Available in three feeding rates of 2, 3 or 4 kilos per head per day, to suit individual farmers requirements in terms of BCS management and silage quality the new feed, Transition GOLD, delivers the 120 grammes of PreCalver Gold mineral, which has been previously specified,” Denis McCarthy commented.

Transition GOLD – New precalver Innovation launched spring 2013.
“However, it also contains high energy and starch levels to prime the rumen for digestion of concentrates, post calving, thereby reducing early weight loss and the development of a negative energy balance. Yeast has also been added to prime the rumen for the upcoming dietary changes once the cows re-join the milking group. Transition GOLD should be offered in the three weeks leading up to calving. It can be easily spread on top of the silage on a daily basis: 50% morning and evening. ”
Visitors to the O’Connor farm will be immediately struck by Denis’ commitment to ensure that the management needs of his stock are met in full. For example, the sheds are laid out to provide sufficient feeding space for each cow in the herd at all times. This ensures that bullying is not a feature and that all the stock have ongoing access to feed, when they need it.
Denis is very optimistic regarding the long term prospects for milk production in Ireland.
“But we don’t need another 2012,” he concluded.
“The best present farmers in this part of the world could receive in 2013 is an early Spring!”