Winter feed plans on Frank Goodman’s farm near Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, were reviewed at the start of December ahead of the milking herd being dried off.

All cows in the Goodman herd will be calving down in the spring, marking the first year that Frank has moved away from an 80:20 spring-autumn split-calving pattern.

The first step in reviewing winter feed plans was to update the 2020-2021 fodder budget for the farm. As outlined in Table 1, there are 1,168t of fodder on the Goodman farm, including 194t of homegrown maize silage.

Estimates of winter feed requirements are detailed in Table 2. This includes a conservative estimate on the housing period, which would take us into April.

Even at this worst-case scenario for the winter feed period, there is adequate fodder on Frank’s farm, with demand sitting at 902t. Forage analysis results from grass silage currently being fed on the Goodman farm are outlined in Table 3. The results show that second-cut silage has a lower DM and protein (CP) content than the other forages. Otherwise, energy (ME) content seems satisfactory.

Stocks of maize silage are being held in reserve and will be fed to lactating cows when sufficient numbers of cows have calved down in the spring.

A forage analysis report has recently been completed and the feed could be described as good to excellent quality when compared to typical values for maize silage.

The samples analysed at 28.5% dry matter, 8.6% crude protein, 31.3% starch and it had an ME of 11MJ/kgDM.

Late lactation

There were 55 cows still passing through the milking parlour last week, although more cows are being dried off. Late-lactation cows have been on a once-a-day (OAD) milking regime since late November.

The use of OAD milking has been associated with rises in somatic cell count (SCC) in studies in the past so SCC continues to be monitored at this stage for any spikes that may occur. It is currently at around 229,000 cells/ml.

Late lactation cows have been on a once a day milking regime since late November.

In an effort to reduce any rises in SCC, Frank has also reviewed the milk records for the herd and dried off or culled any cows he feels may pose difficulties under OAD milking.

Milking cows are currently being offered the following diet:

  • 52kg silage/cow/day.
  • 2kg concentrate blend (20 % CP)/cow/day.
  • 0.5kg straw/cow/day.
  • 3.7kg parlour concentrate (18 % CP)/cow/day.
  • Levels of in-parlour feeding have been raised recently by 1 kg/cow/day in an effort to improve the body condition score of some cows from 2.5 to 2.75

    Dry cow treatments and feed plans

    Cows are currently being dried off on the Goodman farm.

    Selective dry cow therapy has been used again this year. The selection criteria used in this process include the following:

  • SCC under 150,000 cells/ml – teat sealer only.
  • SCC over 150,000 cells/ml – teat sealer only option may be used if the cow had only one mild case of mastitis.
  • All remaining cows receive dry cow antibiotics plus teat sealer.
  • Frank has estimated that up to 70% of the dairy herd may only receive the teat sealer option this year.

    Dry cows will receive a six- to eight-week dry period and are currently being offered the following diet:

  • 50kg silage/cow/day.
  • 2kg concentrate blend (20% CP)/cow/day with dry cow minerals.
  • 1kg straw/cow/day.
  • The estimated dry matter intake with this diet is around 11.5–12kg/cow/day.

    Until recently Frank had been feeding 3kg concentrate blend/cow/day in an effort to raise the body condition score of some of the cows in the dry cow group that he felt were in poor body condition score of 2.5 or less.

    However, a review of the diet suggested that offering 2kg concentrate blend/cow/day should be adequate to meet the needs of these cows and that extra concentrate feed should be offered to any late-lactation cows at body condition score of 2.5 instead.

    Animal health tasks for the winter

    All stock will be treated for liver fluke and worms in the near future. Animals have been vaccinated for IBR and Salmonella. Vaccinations for rotavirus, leptospirosis and BVD will be carried out later in the season as identified in Frank’s animal health plan.

    All cows and heifers approaching calving are also walked through the footbath every two weeks.

    Calf pens

    Calf pens have been cleaned and disinfected for the upcoming calving season which is expected to begin in late January/early February.

    It is planned to weigh maiden heifers in the near future before the breeding programme begins. Currently these animals are being offered big bale silage ad libitum plus 1.5kg concentrate (19.5 %CP)/ animal/day.

    In-calf heifers are being trained to walk through the milking parlour where they are offered concentrate.