Dairy Seminar January 2016

We had a great response and turnout to the latest Dairy seminar held in Templeglantine at the Devon inn.

The speaker for this event was Des Cronin from Inform Nutrition. Des is a well respected nutritionist with 25 years experience in Ruminant Animal Nutrition all over the world.  Here is a brief synopsis of the discussion.

“The only thing worse than a poor price is poor output” Des started the talk outlining several ways that farmers that he dealt with still managed to make decent profits last year despite the poor milk price. These broadly revolved around keeping cows intakes up and in cases where grass intakes were restricted by supplementing correct levels of feed to maintain the energy balance.

He was concerned that people are so used to producing low cost milk that they are failing to change their business model to “Profit per cow” or “Profit per acre”. We have had 30 years of being told to feed cows one way that worked well but that system is not setting farmers up to make real profits in a non quota situation.

A key factor in determining the output potential of the cow is how we manage her nutrition in early lactation.  Early Lactation feeding influences how the cow performs long term, not just in milk and solids yield but also in body condition loss and crucially in reproduction.

Think back to the last Fodder crisis. We had the worst quality silage on record, the least amount of it, a very wet spring where cows were kept indoors and yet we produced huge volumes of milk and solids and cows went in calf with ease. Why?? Because farmers were forced to feed cows a high concentrate diet in early lactation. That was the key to getting the cow to peak yield fast after calving and keeping her there for longer. This set the cow up to manage to produce large volumes of milk at grass when she eventually got out. Indeed most farmers had to dry off early because they were over quota!

Lets consider the basics of balancing a cows intake to her milk yield.

A 27 litre (6 Gallon) cow.

What does she need?

1 UFl is a unit of energy in a diet based on Barley. 1kg barley is 1UFL.

5kgs Dry matter of Silage  is 0.75 UFL

1kg of concentrate is 0.95 UFL.

What does she need?

Maintenence to keep her alive 5 UFL’s

27 litres of milk 11.6 UFLs

Total 16.6 UFLs


How can we get 16.6 UFLs into her to maintain this level of output?

Concentrate 7.5 kgs is 7.1 UFLs

Silage 10kgs dry matter is 7.5 UFLs

Body condition loss 0.5 kgs per day 2 UFLs

Total 16.6 UFLs

Cost €3.10 per day or 11.5 cent per litre of milk.


Consider another scenario….

Concentrate at 5kgs 4.5UFLs

Silage at 10kgs dry matter 7.5UFL’s

Body Condition loss 1kg per day 4 UFLs

Total 16 UFLs to produce the 27 litres of milk but she is losing a lot of body condition that will cost a lot to recover and will inhibit her reproduction.

Cost €2.74 per day or 10 cents per litre of milk. Just a 1.5 cents per litre extra cost and the cow will hold her body condition better and should breed more successfully and faster. Whats the big deal if she milks off her back i hear you ask? Well it will take her a long time on grass to put that condition back on and the energy she has to use would be 4 times more efficient at producing milk at grass rather than body condition.

Who thinks the first cow is the cow that will leave more profit at the end of the year? She might cost more at the start but we have to start taking a longer term view on the whole lactation.


Des also gave another example of 2 farmers he deals with.

Farmer A

Milks 8200 litres per cow on average last year.

Costs in (Dry matter)

Concentrate 1.2 tons €336

Silage 1.7 ton Dry matter €170

Grass €88

Total cost €594


Farmer B

Milks 5100 litres on average per cow.

Costs (Dry Matter)

Concentrate 0.55 ton €154

Silage 1.7 tons Dry Matter €170

Grass €69

Total cost €393


Farmer B is a great lad to keep costs down. But Farmer A has gotten 3100 litres extra for €201 feed cost!! He has done this by feeding well in early lactation and matching feed to grazing conditions. If he was starting to run tight on grass he fed a little more rather than starve the cows. He also grazes 48 hour blocks so he is only forcing the cows to eat the low quality grass once every two days where Farmer B’s cows are on 12 hour blocks and are forced to clean up the paddock every grazing and so he is restricting their intake. Farmer B was asked why not feed 48 hour blocks and his answer was simple ” I’ll run out of grass in a fortnight!!” He has missed the point that he is holding his cows potential back by not giving them enough to eat, both in terms of grass and feed. That was fine when he was producing low cost milk to fill his quota but now he has no quota so he is just shooting himself in the foot by holding the cows back.

We had a good discussion from the floor throughout this seminar and thank you to those that attended and also to Des Cronin and the Devon Inn for hosting the event.

Keep an eye on the website for upcoming events and feel free to call 061 355186 for any feed enquiries that you may have.

Paul O’Connell

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