Considering more days in milk?

After a tough season, many dairy farmers may be considering extending the milking period of their cows to create more cashflow.

For farmers in a position to do so, keeping cows in milk for an extended period can make strong commercial sense. A dry cow by contrast still incurs feed and grazing costs but without a corresponding milk income.

SealesWinslow consultant animal nutrition specialist Paul Sharp says that farmers weighing the costs and benefits of extending the milking period have several things to consider.

"As the season draws to a close, there are conflicting challenges of building up vital feed reserves for the winter ahead, increasing cow conditions to target 5.0 condition scores at calving, while also feeding to keep the milk flowing and optimise days in milk."

Sharp acknowledges that optimising a farmer’s return on investment through extended lactation requires a thoughtful farming strategy, and providing the right balance of nutrients, can be the key to success.

He points out that a late lactation pregnant cow, whose stomach capacity is severely reduced, can struggle with bulky silages and straws that are high in fibre but take up valuable rumen volume. The same cow will respond better to an energy-dense feed which occupies less stomach room while supplying her and the growing calf with the nutrients they need.

"A cost-effective option is SealesWinslow’s Home Run," says Sharp. "It provides optimal nutrition with less wastage, making more energy available for milk production."

Alternatively, pasture still remains the most convenient and economical feed option. With a focus on grazing management, use of irrigation and regular nitrogen application, it will generally be of high quality affording excellent protein and fibre levels throughout autumn.

"However, to maximise milk production, you need to ensure the pasture has a proper balance of nutrients," advises Sharp, who strongly recommends carrying out a herbage test.

"The test will determine the precise level of nutrients your animals are getting. Importantly, it will also allow you to formulate a balanced diet for your cows. And that’s an important step for achieving better productivity."

The right nutrients fed strategically late in lactation will be key – particularly this season, for dairy farmers choosing to keep cows in milk and extend their cash flow.

"Ultimately it’s about increasing the efficiency of your herd and maintaining an income, by employing smart strategies to improve the cost-effectiveness of keeping cows in milk."

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