Dairygold’s commitment to innovation reflected in new dry cow diet

No one will argue that 2012 was a more than challenging year for dairy farmers throughout the Munster area. However, it is now apparent that the application of timely and relevant management procedures has played a role in helping herdowners maintain yields while, at the same time ensuring that cows are in good condition in the run up to the 2013 calving season.
A case in point is Sean O’Doherty, who milks 50 spring calving pedigree Friesian cows with his father John at Araglin, in North Co Cork.
“We had to keep the cows in at night during August. We are on pretty heavy ground and conditions got so bad with the heavy rain that we were left with no option but to buffer feed the milking group at nights,” Sean explained.
“We normally take two cuts of silage. Again the weather hampered our efforts last year with the result that our first cut was taken at the beginning of June. That’s a week later than usual. Our silage is made with a forage wagon, which means that the chop length is reasonably long.”
Despite these challenges Sean’s silage quality this winter is good. The first cut has a Dry Matter Digestibility (DMD) of 70%. But of even more significance is the fact that the average herd yield rose by an average of 40 gallons per cow, year-on-year, in 2012.
“The herd averaged 1490 gallons in 2012 with proteins coming in at 3.6%,” Sean further explained.
“The equivalent yield figure in 2011 was 1450 gallons.”
Calving started on the O’Doherty farm this year on January 10th. On the basis of the scanning results now available to him Sean is expecting that 40 of the cows will have calved by the end of February with the rest of the herd back in milk before the end of March.

Sean views the dry period as most important herd management time.

He views the dry cow period as the most important time of the year, from a herd management point of view.
“Our aim is to calve the cows down at a Conditions Score of 3 and to have them milking to their optimum potential shortly thereafter. This means keeping problems such as retained cleaning and metabolic disorders, including Milk Fever and Ketosis, to an absolute minimum.
“The dry cows are offered a forage mix of grass silage and straw. During the eight week period prior to calving I also feed a kilo and a half per head per day of a 16% Dairygold nut, which contains zero Calcium. This is then further supplemented with Dairygold’s PreCalver Gold Fertility Mineral  during the   8 weeks prior to calving, and +YEAST version for last 21 days. The bagged mineral is sprinkled on top of the forage at a rate of 120 grammes per head per day.”
Sean continued:
“We have been feeding the Precalver Gold minerals for a number of years and have found that they have a very beneficial effect on the cows. In the past we would have had a problem with the likes of retained cleanings. That is no longer an issue. The cows calve down easily, the calves are extremely bright and colostrum quality is excellent.”

Precalver GOLD solved retained cleanings and results in brighter calves.

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.
Sean O’Doherty’s Dairygold advisor Michael English 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,” Michael 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.”
John Lawlor 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 further explained.
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 the recent farm visit Michael English informed Sean O Doherty 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 Fertility Booster, delivers the 120 grammes of PreCalver Gold mineral, which has been previously specified,” 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. ”

Transition GOLD, morning and evening is ideal for last 3 weeks pre calving.
Sean O’ Doherty is fully aware of the fact that heifer calves born on the farm this year, will enter his milking herd in 2015, the year in which milk quota ends. So what are his plans for the post quota era?
“Upping cow numbers is not feasible, because of land availability,” he commented.
“However, improving milk yield per cow certainly is an option for the future. The herd is pedigree registered.”
Sean concluded:
“There is a strong demand for registered Friesian bulls. Our plan is to increase the overall EBI index for the herd. On the back of this, the value of our breeding stock sales should increase.”  
“We traditionally sell young pedigree Friesian bulls and maiden heifers. My father and I have a strong reputation for producing high quality breeding stock and we want to build on this for the future.