Whether dairy farmers like it or not, they need to readjust their thinking to that of a low milk price scenario.
While milk prices are still historically high, they have been eroded by even higher costs and so, in real terms, milk prices are indeed low.
Farmers need to act accordingly and while there was leeway with regards to feeding extra meal last season because milk price was high, that doesn’t exist this season.
Therefore, with grass growth rates increasing, thoughts must turn to reducing meal to the minimum feed necessary.
How much feed is given will be decided by the availability of grass at any given time. Ground conditions have greatly improved and grass supply is relatively plentiful – particularly on farms that have had to house cows for long periods in March.
Spring grass is a perfect feed for cows and where there is enough grass available, cows don’t need additional feed.
However, most farmers will feed 1kg to 2kg of meal per cow each day in order to get minerals into cows and help with cow flow in the parlour.
Other options also include feeding minerals via water. Because meal prices are so high, this could work out as a more cost-effective option, but it depends on prices.
The key task over the next few weeks is to ensure that farmers don’t get caught out by high grass growth rates.
A bad situation is one where nearly all paddocks on the farm have very high grass covers – a scenario we sometimes come across in late April.
As a result, a high proportion of the paddocks need to be skipped over for silage, which is a cost, but then this also leaves a smaller proportion of the farm available for grazing, which could then result in a grass shortage.
Avoiding this scenario requires careful management of grass, taking weekly measurements and taking actions based on results.
Ideally, average farm cover should be around 160kg to 180kg per cow over this period and demand for grass shouldn’t exceed expected growth rates over a two or three week period, such as 60 to 70kg per day.