A 10% increase in the proportion of grazed grass in a dairy cow’s diet reduces costs of production by 2.5 cent/litre.
Grass budgeting is essential to ensure pasture based systems of production are profitable and efficiently convert grazed grass into milk.
The main ways to increase the proportion of grass in the animal diet, according to Smart Farming advice, are:
- Extend the grazing season into early spring and late autumn. This can be achieved by implementing grazing management
practices such as timely closing of paddocks in autumn for early spring grazing, where weather allows.
- Where possible match the herd calving pattern to the grass growing season. Begin calving when grass starts growing – this results in most cows calving between 10th February and 1st March. Target an opening farm cover of 600 – 700 kg DM/ha.
- Match stocking rate to the grass growth potential of the farm. e.g. A cow consumes 5t grass DM. If farm is growing 14 t DM/ha it can be stocked at 2.8 cows/ha (14 ÷ 5 = 2.8).
- Ensure soil fertility is optimised (see soil fertility section).
- Implement a timely re-seeding programme to maximise sward productivity.
- Carry out regular farm grass cover measurement and grass budgeting.
- Ensure that farm infrastructure is sufficient to fully utilise grass grown, especially during periods of wet weather.
- Supplement with concentrate or high quality baled silage when grass is in short supply.
- Use on-off grazing during periods of wet weather to keep grass in the cows diet, provided soil conditions allow.
Find more tips to save money and improve resource efficiency at www.smartfarming.ie.