Fodder stocks were re-assessed on James King’s farm near Ballymena, Co Antrim last week. In total, there is 1,340t of fresh weight silage available, which should be adequate for the winter period.

Dairylink adviser Aidan Cushnahan completed the assessment on the assumption that a lactating cow will consume 1.4t of silage per month and a dry cow will use 1t for the same period. On those predictions, current silage stocks on James’ farm are enough for 170 milking cows and 30 dry cows over a five and a half month housing period.

Feed plan

The milking herd is split into two feeding groups according to their stage of lactation and level of production. Cows in the high-yielding group receive a total mixed ration made up of 33kg of silage, 0.5kg of hay, 5kg of a 18% crude protein blend, 1kg of straw nuts and 1kg of sugar beet pulp.

This diet is designed to support maintenance, plus 20l for cows, and maintenance plus 17l for first lactation heifers. In the parlour, feeders are used to top up cows and heifers that are yielding above these baselines.

The low-yielding group is currently being offered ad-lib grass silage, which should support maintenance plus 10l for cows, and maintenance plus 7l for heifers. Again, animals in this group are fed to yield in the parlour.

Milk yields

James' latest milk recording showed that cows in the early lactation group had averaged 33.7l, whilst the late lactation group averaged 16.4l.

Aidan reports that the herd appears to be in satisfactory condition, with body condition scores typically around 2.75 to 3.0. James is continuing to monitor performance and will make further changes to the diet if required.

Read more in this week's Irish Farmers Journal and online.