Feeding Concentrates at Grass

Nutrition for breeding
Your nutritional aims for successful breeding are:
To minimise your herd’s body condition loss between calving and the start of breeding i.e. maximum 0.5 condition score loss and/or a minimum BCS of 2.5 at breeding. 
Avoiding ‘nutritional’ stress by having cows on an increasing plain of nutrition pre breeding (energy intake never less than the day before) and ensuring cows are well fed right up until seven weeks after insemination.
For more details on ‘Feeding for Breeding’ see http://www.agritrading.ie/Feeding-for-Breeding 
Key point: Achieving BCS targets and having cows on an increasing plain of nutrition pre-breeding are critical to avoid slippage of calving dates.
Grass Shortage
Grazed grass is the most economical way to feed your cows.  If you are in short on grass, feeding supplementary concentrates will be economical in most cases.
You should continue to use supplementary concentrates strategically with availability of top-quality grass, grazing conditions and individual circumstances (cow milk yield etc.) being key factors in determining if you supplement or not at this time of the year.  Grass quality and particularly grass dry matter intake (reduces dramatically in cooler, wet conditions) are often overestimated on farm.  Flexibility is required on farm to introduce and remove concentrates as conditions change.
Key point: Feeding supplementary concentrates at strategic times (e.g. during a wet period or when grass is in short supply) is almost always economical.  
Grass Plentiful
It may make sense for you to feed a small amount of concentrates even when you have adequate grass depending on your individual circumstances. You need to calculate the cost versus the return. 
 
Cost
€0.25 to €0.32 per Kg (concentrate costing €250€320 per tonne) 
Return
Return is dependent on three factors:
(i) Milk yield response 
Typical range 0.30.5 per Kg concentrate fed (for the first 2Kg). At a milk price of €0.30 per litre, this equates to €0.09 to €0.15 per Kg fed. 
(ii) Cost of alternative Magnesium (Mg) supplementation for grass tetany
Feeding concentrates based on the Cal Mag level is very reliable way of getting Mg into cows at pasture.  Pasture dusting or adding Mg to the water typically cost €0.14-€0.22 per cow per day.
(iii) Vitamin, macro mineral and trace element supplementation
-Macro minerals (in addition to Mg e.g. Calcium and Phosphorus)
-Trace elements e.g. Selenium, Copper, Zinc and Copper (deficient in Irish forage)
-Vitamins 
Your cows need adequate levels of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to maximise their performance and fertility.  Supplementing a full suite of vitamins/minerals through other means e.g. powdered minerals is likely to cost in the region of €0.22 per cow per day.
Example-Farmer feeding 2Kg of a concentrate costing €285 per tonne gets a 0.4L milk yield response per Kg of concentrate fed considers switching to Mg through the water (€0.18 per head per day) and feeding powdered minerals (€0.22 per cow per day).
Continues to feed 2Kg concentrates
Cost of Concentrate €285/1000 = €0.285 per Kg concentrate
2 X €0.285 = €0.57
Feeds no concentrates
Loss of milk 2 X 0.4L = 0.8L milk yield loss X €0.30 milk price = €0.24
Mg in water €0.18
Powdered minerals €0.22
Total cost €0.64
Return on feeding concentrates €0.64 - €0.57 = €0.07
Based on the above, it is possible feeding 1Kg to 2Kg of concentrates will offer a return on investment on some farms and will be uneconomical on others. 
 
Ultimately, your costs and returns will be depending on your individual circumstances (cow type etc.). However, the above does not account for the convenience factor of concentrates or the peace of mind they can offer (knowing cows are covered for grass tetany and are being supplemented properly with vitamins, minerals and trace elements). 
Key point: In the post-quota era, even with adequate grass, feeding up to 2Kg of concentrates to typical spring calving cows at this time of the year is likely to be economical on some farms.

Nutrition for breeding
Your nutritional aims for successful breeding are
:• To minimise your herd’s body condition loss between calving and the start of breeding i.e. maximum 0.5 condition score loss and/or a minimum BCS of 2.5 at breeding.
 • Avoiding ‘nutritional’ stress by having cows on an increasing plain of nutrition pre breeding (energy intake never less than the day before) and ensuring cows are well fed right up until seven weeks after insemination.
For more details on ‘Feeding for Breeding’ see http://www.agritrading.ie/Feeding-for-Breeding 
Key point: Achieving BCS targets and having cows on an increasing plain of nutrition pre-breeding are critical to avoid slippage of calving dates.
Grass Shortage
Grazed grass is the most economical way to feed your cows.  If you are in short on grass, feeding supplementary concentrates will be economical in most cases.
You should continue to use supplementary concentrates strategically with availability of top-quality grass, grazing conditions and individual circumstances (cow milk yield etc.) being key factors in determining if you supplement or not at this time of the year.  Grass quality and particularly grass dry matter intake (reduces dramatically in cooler, wet conditions) are often overestimated on farm.  Flexibility is required on farm to introduce and remove concentrates as conditions change.
Key point: Feeding supplementary concentrates at strategic times (e.g. during a wet period or when grass is in short supply) is almost always economical.  
Grass Plentiful
It may make sense for you to feed a small amount of concentrates even when you have adequate grass depending on your individual circumstances. You need to calculate the cost versus the return. 
 
Cost
€0.25 to €0.32 per Kg (concentrate costing €250€320 per tonne) 
Return
Return is dependent on three factors:
(i) Milk yield response 
Typical range 0.30.5 per Kg concentrate fed (for the first 2Kg). At a milk price of €0.30 per litre, this equates to €0.09 to €0.15 per Kg fed.
(ii) Cost of alternative Magnesium (Mg) supplementation for grass tetanyFeeding concentrates based on the Cal Mag level is very reliable way of getting Mg into cows at pasture.  Pasture dusting or adding Mg to the water typically cost €0.14-€0.22 per cow per day.
(iii) Vitamin, macro mineral and trace element supplementation-Macro minerals (in addition to Mg e.g. Calcium and Phosphorus)-Trace elements e.g. Selenium, Copper, Zinc and Copper (deficient in Irish forage)-Vitamins Your cows need adequate levels of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to maximise their performance and fertility.  Supplementing a full suite of vitamins/minerals through other means e.g. powdered minerals is likely to cost in the region of €0.22 per cow per day.
Example-Farmer feeding 2Kg of a concentrate costing €285 per tonne gets a 0.4L milk yield response per Kg of concentrate fed considers switching to Mg through the water (€0.18 per head per day) and feeding powdered minerals (€0.22 per cow per day).
Continues to feed 2Kg concentrates
Cost of Concentrate €285/1000 = €0.285 per Kg concentrate
      2 X €0.285 = €0.57
Feeds no concentrates
Loss of milk 2 X 0.4L = 0.8L milk yield loss X €0.30 milk price = €0.24
Mg in water €0.18
Powdered minerals €0.22
Total cost €0.64
Return on feeding concentrates €0.64 - €0.57 = €0.07

Based on the above, it is possible feeding 1Kg to 2Kg of concentrates will offer a return on investment on some farms and will be uneconomical on others. 
 
Ultimately, your costs and returns will be depending on your individual circumstances (cow type etc.). However, the above does not account for the convenience factor of concentrates or the peace of mind they can offer (knowing cows are covered for grass tetany and are being supplemented properly with vitamins, minerals and trace elements). 
Key point: In the post-quota era, even with adequate grass, feeding up to 2Kg of concentrates to typical spring calving cows at this time of the year is likely to be economical on some farms.

Dairygold - Early Lactation Feeding

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