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Strategies to stop the drop

3 February 2017

Strategies to stop the drop

With milk collection down as much as six percent this season due to difficult production conditions, coupled with increasingly dry ground conditions across the north and east of the country, farmers looking to offset the summer milk production drop need to act now with strategic pasture management and high-energy supplements.

Paul Sharp, SealesWinslow Animal Nutrition Specialist, says seasonal milk production decline is due to a variety of factors which include physiological changes in the cow, reduced pasture growth rates and seasonal decline in pasture quality.

“If we look at the numbers associated with each of these factors, we see that a 4-6% production decline per month results from the seasonal physiological changes in the cow,” says Paul.

“Yet the average production decline on New Zealand dairy farms is close to 15% per month. The difference between these figures – 9-11% – comes from the impact of the feed quality and quantity.”

Right now with reduced pasture growth rates, the limiting animal factor is sufficient dry matter availability and the composition of this pasture for maintaining milk production and cow condition.

“The more we can offset the impact of falling pasture quality and quantity, the more milk we’ll be able to produce through summer,” says Paul. “Ideally, we only want to see a 5% drop in production each month.”

Paul notes that to achieve this it is paramount to manage grazing to optimise pasture quality.

“Adjust the rotation so that you’re grazing pastures when the plant is still young. That way there will be less seedhead and stem – and therefore less fibre - in the feed.

For those areas where there is still moisture, pasture growth can be promoted by the use of regular, light dressings of nitrogen fertiliser and just 15-18 kg N/ha should be enough to encourage high quality leaf growth.

“At the same time, you can increase the energy density of the animal’s diet by using high-energy supplements,” says Paul.

“These can just be used strategically to fill that energy gap and keep milk production levels up. SealesWinslow’s Kick Starch or Home Run pelleted feed is ideal for this use.”


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