More milk per cow is the target for Macroom dairy farmer post 2015

With April 2015 just two years away there is now growing evidence that large numbers of Dairygold suppliers have given serious consideration to their options, once milk quotas have been consigned to the history books. Factors that would mitigate against a large scale expansion of cow numbers for many include land availability and the funding of the investment entailed, particularly when this latter issue is considered against the backdrop of a potentially volatile milk market.
However, there is pretty much universal acceptance that increasing milk output per cow is one way of driving growth within a dairy farming business.    
One man who feels strongly that improving performance per cow represents the way forward for his farming enterprise is Michael Looney, who  milks 110 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows near Macroom in Co Cork.
“Increasing cow numbers isn’t really an option for me,” Michael explained.
“But I do want to look at ways of increasing individual cow yields. This will entail upping the number of days in milk per cow and bringing the calving profile for the herd forward. There will also be a requirement to feed more meal and to improve the overall fertility of the herd. And to get all of that right, I will have to put increasing emphasis on dry cow management practises.”   
Last year Michael’s herd averaged 1450 gallons at 3.48% protein and 3.8% butterfat. And given the problems created by the poor weather, that was such a feature of 2012, it’s a level of performance that Michael is pretty pleased with.
Key Expansion Target: More milk per individual cow. 

“2012’s grazing season was the most challenging I can remember. The cows were in and out during July and August, which meant buffer feeding silage at night,” he continued.
“I normally take two cuts of silage. But, as it turned out, we got a couple of pretty good days as we were making last year’s first cut. As a result I have a clamp of silage with a DMD of 77%, which I will be feeding to this year’s fresh calvers.”
Michael fully recognises the need to manage dry cows properly. To this end he offers his pre calvers a forage mix of grass silage and straw, which is supplemented with half a kilo of soya plus one and a half kilos of blend, made up of soya hulls and distillers. 
Eight weeks prior to calving he also includes 120 grammes per day of Dairygold’s Precalver GOLD mineral.
“I target a Body Condition Score of 3 at calving,” Michael confirmed.

Key Body Condition Score Target:  3.0 at calving.

“I have been adding the PreCalver GOLD minerals into the precalving diets for the past 5 years. Up to that point problems with retained cleanings and metabolic disorders post calving would have been an issue on this farm. We are also in a moderately low Copper area.
“However, the good news is that since we started including the PreCalver GOLD minerals these problems have almost become a thing of the past.

Key Issues Sorted: Retained cleanings and metabolic disorders post calving.
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.
Michael’s Dairygold advisor Jim Canty recently called in at the farm. He was accompanied by Alltech’s John Lawlor.
“PreCalver GOLD has an extremely high specification, from both a mineral and vitamin perspective, and is expertly formulated with our local herd profile in mind,” Jim explained.
“For example, 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.”
On-going innovation has been a hallmark of Dairygold’s commitment to milk producers for many years. Over recent months the co-op has focused on ways of improving dry cow nutrition in ways that will allow herd owners, particularly those without feeder wagons, to meet the exact nutritional requirements of their pre calving stock in the most effective and straightforward way possible.
Jim Canty takes up the story: “Dairygold has 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 Fertility Booster, delivers the 120 grammes of PreCalver GOLD mineral, consistent with the feeding rate and specification of the bag powder ,” Michael explained.
“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 Fertility Booster 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. ”

Key Priority: Morning and evening feeding of minerals is best.
Jim Canty concluded: “There is tremendous scope for dairy farmers to improve milk output per cow and, in so doing increase the milk output from their businesses. But to achieve this they must ensure that their cows get the possible start to each and every lactation. And all of this hinges on herd owners getting their dry cow management procedures right!”