Making the most of available grazed grass

Despite grass performing above average this season, producers looking to take advantage of the extended grazing window are being reminded that grass dry matter variability could inhibit production if a well-balanced buffer ration isn’t presented to cows.

Rob Fowkes, from Quality Liquid Feeds says that recent reports have shown that grass has huge variability in dry matter (DM), and acid detergent fibre levels with some parts of the country witnessing DM levels below 40 kg/DM/ha according to recent a AHDB report.

He therefore advises that it is essential that cows are supplemented with dense energy feeds to achieve their full potential. “Dry matter intake (DMI) has a significant impact on milk yield, body condition, fertility and disease prevention,” says Rob. He adds that a drop in body condition score of just 0.5 can result in a reduced milk yield of two litres/day and therefore rations need to drive dry matter intakes.

“In lactating cows, we tend to find that energy, rather than protein or minerals, is the most limiting nutrient.”

He adds that if cows are not milking as well as expected, milk protein is low or cows are losing excessive condition, energy is the first nutrient to check. “Measuring the total dry matter intake for grazing herds rather than assuming intakes, is key to ensuring energy requirements are being met.

“A buffer feed containing a minimum 10.5 MJ/kg metabolisable energy should be fed alongside grazing if herds are to utilise the last of the available grass,” says Rob.

Incorporating a molasses-based liquid into a buffer ration can provide a good source of rumen fermentable energy to increase DMI and stimulates rumen microbial growth. In addition to this, adding a sugar rich liquid can help to bind the ration to reduce sorting, increase fibre intakes and give an even distribution of vitamins and minerals.

“Farmers should be looking to monitor cow’s energy requirements closely to ensure correct DMI is achieved. Capitalising on home grown grass with a buffer ration containing molasses can help high yielding cows achieve full milk yield potential and maintain body condition,” concludes Rob.