Feeding for Breeding

A New Era

Quotas are no more! While a large superlevy for 2014-2015 will hit many of you, hopefully you can take comfort in the knowledge that there will be no superlevy in 2015-2016 or any year after that. 

Quotas are no more! While a large superlevy for 2014-2015 will hit many of you, hopefully you can take comfort in the knowledge that there will be no superlevy in 2015-2016 or any year after that.

You may be surprised to learn that nutritional recommendations should change little in the non-quota era. There is no point in feeding concentrates at the expense of grass. However, strategic feeding where required by the cow (early lactation, late lactation and where cows have potential to produce more milk economically) or where environmental factors dictate (grass scarce, poor grazing conditions) continues to deliver a strong return on investment.


Feeding for Breeding

Feeding for your herd’s breeding starts in the dry period and nutrition at this time has a significant effect on ensuring the cow goes back in calf quickly.  If up to 25% of your herd has yet to calf, don’t neglect them, you can still have some influence on this key nutritional period.  Dairygold recommends feeding 2Kg/head/day of TRANSITION GOLD for the final three weeks pre-calving.  For full details on transition feeding and the Dairygold Dry Cow Programme, see www.agritrading.ie/Dairygold-Dry-Cow-Programme 


Key message: Focus on your late calvers too. They need extra attention to get them back in calf.


Supplementation in early lactation

Your cows’ feed intake lags behind their milk yield after calving.  This creates an energy gap that has to be met by your individual cow’s own body reserves i.e. the cow ‘milks off her own back’.  The larger this energy gap and the longer it lasts the harder it will be to get your cows back in calf.


Key point: Your key nutrition focus in early lactation is to maximise your cows’ milk yield (economically) and minimise their body condition loss (<0.5 BCS between calving and the start of breeding).    


The target Body Condition Score (BCS) at calving is 3.0 to 3.25. While condition score loss is normal in early lactation due to the energy gap explained above, your key aim for successful breeding is to minimise your herd’s body condition loss between calving and the start of breeding to a maximum of 0.5.  When deciding on what level of concentrates to feed cows; be sure to analyse the total diet, be aware of the risk of over estimating DM from grass and look beyond the return in milk sales. Focus on achieving your target BCS at breeding i.e. maximum 0.5 condition score loss and/or a minimum BCS of 2.5 at breeding. 


Supplementation Rates

Grazed grass is the most economical way to feed a cow.  It is very important to bear in mind that grass intake will depend on availability and grazing conditions.  Grass budgeting and good grassland management (on/off grazing in wet conditions etc.) will minimise the level of concentrate used while meeting the key nutritional targets above.  When selecting a concentrate the most important factor is the energy level but protein level (and quality) and minerals are also important.  For full details on Dairygold recommended feeding rates in early lactation, see http://www.agritrading.ie/Feeding-Spring-Calving-Cows-in-Early-Lactation-2015 


Key point: Don’t overestimate grazing intakes. Grass intake depends on availability and grazing conditions.  Use concentrates strategically to fill the gaps in your grazing cow diets.


The New GOLD Range

Postcalver GOLD feeds only contain high energy raw materials and MAIZE as the number one ingredient.



Postcalver GOLD feeds have Yeasacc included at recommended rates to drive your cows’ intake, increase fibre digestion and help reduce their energy gap in early lactation (particularly effective when also fed pre calving). Yeast has been proven under Irish grazing conditions to minimise the risk of digestive upsets. This is particularly important when a cow’s diet is abruptly changed e.g. when you turnout your cows to grass after calving.


Postcalver GOLD feeds also contain Sel-Plex and Bioplex minerals at recommended rates which have been proven to increase conception rates.


Postcalver GOLD delivers these benefits for 5-10 cent/head/day above the cost of our high energy range* (More Milk, Dairy Pride, Milkrite and Grass Aid), irrespective of the feeding rate. There is also a Balancer Postcalver GOLD range to match the individual requirements of dairy farmers feeding alternative forages.


Key point: A low milk price and superlevy hangover may tempt you towards feeding cheaper concentrates but the Postcalver GOLD range is worth the investment with high energy ingredients including maize as the primary ingredient plus Yeasacc, Sel-Plex and Bioplex minerals at recommended rates.

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