Paul Flaherty’s autumn-calving herd of 85 predominantly Friesian x Holstein cows are fed on a grass-based system and supplemented with the GAIN Dairy Feed range.
“My dad was here before me, milking. I started myself as a new entrant back in 1995, when I leased a neighbour’s milking parlour and about 10ac of land with it. My father retired and I leased this farm off him. I worked a split system, autumn and spring-calving, up until about six years ago.”
PREPARING FOR AUTUMN CALVING
The herd goes through a 10-week breeding season using Friesian straws for the first four weeks and Angus thereafter. Kicking off the calving season in late August and finishing in early November, Paul sells approximately two-thirds of the calves. He usually keeps 30 Friesian heifers. He weans them off milk on to GAIN Calf Rearer Nuts (18% protein).
The autumn-calving herd requires a high level of nutrition to sustain milk yield, fertility and overall body condition score (BCS). To ensure a balanced diet all year round, Paul supplements with both GAIN Lactation Sustainer (15% protein) and GAIN Spring Breeder (13% protein) in the parlour. The choice of nut depends on grass cover and its protein content, he explains.
“It’s a total grass and silage-based setup here. I don’t bother with maize or the diet feeder. I did it in the past, but didn’t find it profitable. I supplement them in the parlour with about 1.4t of GAIN feed throughout the season. Most of my feeding is done when other lads have dried off. For instance, I would be feeding over half a tonne per day of nuts from about November to January. The amount of meal we feed in the parlour depends a lot on the quality of the silage. It could be anything between 5kg and 7.5kg, per cow per day.”
SUSTAINING MILK YIELD
Doing exactly as it says, Paul turned to GAIN Lactation Sustainer Nut last year, when grass ran tight and an additional protein source was required.
“This time last year, my average farm cover dropped dramatically and got a little bit too scarce for my liking. Things were running late, with the first cut of silage almost 10 days later than usual. I didn’t have the aftergrass that I normally would have from mid to late June. So, I rang my GAIN business manager Dave Hally, and explained the problem. He suggested that I try the GAIN Lactation Sustainer nut. I began to feed 4kg of it for a few weeks. I knew something had to be done and found it simple, compared to starting with bales of silage and upsetting the cows’ routine.”
Paul was glad that he could rely on the power packed nut.
“It really kept the yield up. When making a choice to supplement like that, you need to make sure the cows are still getting good protein. You can’t be relying on a cheap and cheerful nut, because when you look at the long-term, that late-lactation milk is worth a lot of money. So, if it kept another litre a day in the cow - which it did - then it was worth it. If we had the same weather challenges as last summer, I’d definitely use GAIN Lactation Sustainer again, as I know it makes a difference. It just provides that extra bit of protein and energy when you need it.”
The heavier soil type on the Clonmel farm has benefited from recent dry spells, as Paul reports good performance from the parlour.
“We have plenty of grass at the moment and they are still giving about 16l per day, which is good, considering we are drying them off this week.”
At the end of the 2021 milk year, the Flaherty farm reported producing an average of 7,100l at 560kg of milk solids. With the continued feed combination of high-quality grass and GAIN dairy nuts, Paul aims to increase his milk solid production.
“If we could get to 600kg of milk solids – with them on 1.5t of nuts and as much grass as possible – I would be happy. It’s more about sustaining what we have at the moment than setting unrealistic expectations. We have come a long way in the last four years and I am quite happy with the overall yield and targets we are reaching, as a result of good nutritional intake. I think I have done my bit of work, having come from milking eight cows in 1995, to 85 today. That might be a small herd of cows for some, but I am quite happy and I know they are all well fed and looked after.”
SERVICE AND SUPPORT
“I’m dealing with Dave in GAIN for about 15 years now. We have a good system going. Even when we couldn’t meet during Covid, we discussed things over the phone and kept in touch. Dave is farming himself at home and we would often chat about roadways and grass cover on each other’s farms. He can relate to what is going on here, even though we are farming two totally different systems. He knows what he is talking about and is always there at the other end of the phone. The product is one thing, but the service behind it means even more to me.”
Grass quality should be the focus over the next number of weeks and optimising milk output on the back of quality grass.
It is worthwhile to track your herd’s output decline, as some herds experienced excessive output declines over the restricted growth/drought period. It is critical to hold the lactation curve post peak milk production as best as possible, to optimise milk output for the remainder of the lactation. Milk yields in ideal conditions will reduce by 2.0-2.5% per week and the reduction should not be greater than 10% per month. Anything above this indicates an energy deficit or the cows dry matter intake capacity is not being met. To ensure adequate intakes, pay particular attention to both grass quality and quantity.
In a 100-cow herd, currently yielding 26l/day (mean calving date March 15), the difference between a decline of 3% per week and 2.5% per week would result in an income loss of greater than €9,000 between now and the end of lactation.
As set out in the GAIN Momentum Programme, to achieve 500kg of milk solids, cows need to produce 1.82kg per day of milk solids on average during July.
It is essential to measure grass to enhance grass quality and make timely feeding decisions to optimise profitability. Typically, cows will need 18-20kg of grass dry matter per day. If sufficient grass is not available, the dry matter and energy gap needs to be bridged through increased supplementation. Where the energy gap requires greater than 6kg/head/day of concentrate, consider grazing second-cut silage ground and/or buffer feeding with high-quality, high dry matter forage.
Ideally, where grass growth has increased significantly or is continuously exceeding demand and creating a surplus, the poorest quality paddocks should be taken out as bales. At this time of year, the milk yield potential of good quality grazed grass is 20-22kg of milk per cow per day, depending on genetic merit. The milk potential of grass reduces as grass covers become stronger. If cows are yielding more than grazed grass can support, concentrate supplementation maybe required.
GAIN Lactation Sustainer 15 Nut is specifically formulated, containing bypass starch and digestible fibre, to help sustain milk yield and solids production at grass while helping cow fertility and pregnancy maintenance. Additionally, GAIN Lactation Sustainer 15 Nut contains Agolin, which has been scientifically shown to increase feed efficiency and increase milk yield.
GAIN Lactation Sustainer 15 Nut also provides an optimum level of calcium, magnesium and minerals up to a feeding rate of 6 kg, providing greater flexibility during grass shortfalls on-farm.
How to order GAIN Lactation Sustainer
For more information on GAIN Lactation Sustainer, please contact your local GAIN representative, branch or visit glanbiaconnect.com