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FORA
GE AND NUTRITION

Guide 20
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7
FORAGE AND NUTRITION
Guide 2017
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According to June 2016's Central Statistics O ce (CSO)
livestock data, the numbers of dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep
have all increased, so we need to make more, and better quality,
silage. One simple way to do this is to minimise waste in clamps
by using a top-class silage additive and better-quality silage
covers.
In relation to baled silage, the new Film & Film wrapping
system virtually eliminates mould losses so this is a significant
development.
The new milk quota is on land and labour, so dairy farmers need
to significantly improve herd performance to make a decent
profit from their investment and from increased milk production.
Livestock farmers need to optimise production from grass to
increase milk yields/ha or to improve live-weight gain. Our
most e cient farmers are expanding and utilising more than 12
tonnes of dry matter (DM) per hectare, yet the national average
is only 7.5 tonnes.
Unfortunately, without adequate soil nutrients, grassland
production will be well behind its potential. Overall soil test
results for 2015, when Teagasc analysed 31,743 samples,
indicate that only 11 per cent of soils have the optimum mix of
soil pH, phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).
Poor animal health will impact on busy farmers, livestock
performance and on family incomes. So, improving the fertility
and health of your herd or flock will save time, money and
improve livestock performance.
Infertility is a major cause of economic loss on our dairy
farms. A long, productive life is necessary to generate a
return on the investment during heifer rearing. The cost of
rearing a replacement heifir is estimated to be 1,545. The
optimum in a stable herd is 4.5 lactations, which equates to
an annual replacement rate of 18 per cent, so lots of room for
improvement in the average herd.
A number of factors can impact the fertility of a dairy cow eg.
nutrition, body condition score (BCS), uterine environment,
overall health status and genetic merit for fertility traits.
Another important factor is DM intake. This is also critically
important for influencing milk production and fertility in dairy cows.
Data collected by Teagasc at Moorepark over a five-year
period, from cows o ered a grass-only diet, clearly indicate the
low grass intake of cows in early lactation.
The cow is consuming insu cient grass to fulfil her energy
requirements so an adequate supplement of a quality feed
should be o ered during the first six weeks of lactation.
It is also well established that the trace mineral status of swards
in Ireland is suboptimal; deficiencies of copper, selenium
and iodine are widespread. To optimise milk production and
health of their valuable cows, dairy farmers need to improve
herd nutrition, so a conversation with a Teagasc adviser or
agricultural consultant would be well worthwhile.
Optimising farm incomes for 2017
Liam de Paor