Feed for fertility at grass

Posted by rebecca on Jul 4, 2016, 11:44 AM

Feeding compounds specifically formulated to balance grazing are central to the management of a leading Cheshire dairy farming business.

Farming a total of 1750 acres near Macclesfield, Robert Wain is a third generation farmer, expanding a family business that currently supports 1200 cows across three units, with a further 750 dairy heifers being reared as replacements, used for expansion or sold.

Focusing on maximum utilisation of grazed grass and forage, fertility is of highest importance. Calving takes place in tight blocks, with the herd fed flat rate as a ‘one cow system’ to ease management. Robert achieves a calving index of 368 days with tight serving periods by feeding for fertility and supporting dedicated staff who are fully trained in fertility monitoring and grassland management.

At the 275 acre Home Farm, Robert runs an autumn calving herd of 350 Friesian cross bred cows. They calve in a 10 week period starting September 1st and finish by the middle of November. Serving starts on 24th November and the AI programme stops on 24th December, with sweeper bulls used at the end.

The cows average 6700 litres on 1500kg of concentrates, and are currently fed Masseys Prograze, a 14% CP Spring dairy cake designed specifically to support cows at grass through the use of slow degrading raw materials.

With grazed grass analysing at up to 28% crude protein, we have developed a full range of low-protein, high-energy Spring dairy cakes, packed with chelated minerals in our FiMLAC mineral pack. They include organic selenium Sel-Plex® and Bioplex® trace minerals; organic Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iron and Cobalt, all to support healthy immune function in freshly calved cows.

Quality minerals

Organic chelated minerals, rather than synthesised inorganic minerals, are better able to meet the higher nutrient needs of modern livestock for rapid growth, maximum reproductive performance and animal health. Magnesium is added at a higher rate than standard in Prograze, to minimise the risk of staggers. Biotin is included as standard in the FiMLAC mineral pack to support healthy hoof and horn development at grazing. These minerals are included in all of our FiMLAC and Q-HS dairy cakes.

Prograze is currently fed at two of the units. Novatan® is included in the formulation for the 400 Friesian cross Spring calving herd at Simonswood Farm, which is kept on a 330 acre grazing platform, and is producing 5700 litres per cow on 800kg of concentrate. The 12 week calving block starts on February 1st, with cows put out to grass by February 10th, or earlier if possible, with the majority calving outside. Cows will graze until the end of November, with the whole herd dry by December 20th.

Novatan® is an additive which improves the use of proteins in the diet. With spring grass being particularly high in crude protein (up to 28% here), it is typical to see urea levels rise due to the high concentration of ammonia produced in the rumen.

As getting fertility and tight calving blocks right here is vital, the aim is to keep urea levels under 30mg/dl. Excess ammonia impacts embryo development and the ability to hold at service.

Wasted energy

Every 100g of excess protein a cow does not require for production takes 0.8MJ to convert into urea. Typically at grass, with so much excess protein in the diet, cows will use the energy equivalent to one litre of milk per day, just processing this excess urea.

Novatan® works by ‘mopping up’ some of the excess rumen protein. It specifically targets the rumen microbial population, effectively causing more protein to bypass the rumen and increase by-pass protein for synthesis in the small intestine. This also stimulates microbial protein synthesis, vital for essential amino acid production. The result of this is a more stable rumen pH, better digestive comfort and a significant reduction in urea levels.

Masseys Ruminant Feed Specialist Emma Hutcheon carried out trials at Simonswood in 2015, monitoring daily urea levels and milk protein levels after the introduction of Novatan®. She found that urea levels dropped and stayed consistently lower than the previous year, combined with an unexpected rise in milk proteins. Robert claims Simonswood had the best fertility and holding rates to date, and has continued to use Novatan® in the Massey FiMLAC ration across 2016.

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