Despite having a good diet available for his cows, Don Lucey used to see problems with dry matter intakes in the spring – something that worried him as optimising dry matter intake is critical if cows are to maximise yield of milk solids and promote strong fertility. But thankfully he found a solution.
Don, who farms on the outskirts of Cork city, runs the 100-strong Balinvrinsig herd of pedigree Holsteins, which averages 10,000 kg of milk per year at 4.01 per cent butterfat and 3.35 per cent protein.
“We run a high input, high output system, trying to take as much as we can from grazed grass,” Don explained.
“Our aim is to get the most we can from our acres, as land is short, and so we reseed pastures every seven years to maximise productivity, as well as buffer feeding to maintain milk output.”
Cows are fed a buffer throughout the grazing season that includes maize silage, straw, minerals and caustic wheat. On top of this, cows are fed to yield in the parlour with a high protein ration.
“Because we are focused on output, I was concerned when we were seeing reduced feed intakes after turn out in the spring, and discussed this with Gerald Allen of Allen Nutrition, who provides our minerals and feed supplements,” Don said.
“Gerald suggested we might be suffering from sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) on lush spring grass, and recommended that we add Actisaf live yeast to our minerals to help address this.”
Targeted grass covers for optimum spring grazing are high in digestibility and this challenges rumen function and so needs to be balanced to optimise the contribution of grass to the overall diet. Actisaf is very effective at helping to control rumen pH, optimising rumen function and maximising feed intake and performance.
“Since we introduced Actisaf through our TMR buffer mix we’ve seen milk proteins increase, intakes improve, and had fewer stomach upsets,” Don concluded. “It is now a core component of our mineral pack and I can’t see that changing.”