With this spring being one of the wettest on record, which has significantly delayed many herds getting out of sheds, it is now important to keep cows on track, UFAC-UK has said.

The ruminant technical manager of UFAC-UK, Mark Townsend, said normally at this time of year farmers would be looking at butterfats following turnout, but that there is the challenge of a lack of energy.

UFAC-UK said early grazing data highlights that energy is limited for grazing animals, with milk yield from grazing (MYFG) values continuing to fall, which could be “problematic” for spring calving herds turning fresh cows out.

Dry matter intakes will also be limited, the nutritional supplement manufacturer said, with early grass having a very low dry matter content this year, and energy levels bring lower than usual.

Supporting nutrition at grass will therefore be key to maintaining yields and butterfat production, in turn helping to support margins, UFAC said, however it is important to also focus on the overall energy density of the diet.

Maximising DMIs and margins

Townsend said the efficient use of grass by precision feeding can help increase milk from forage, but it is vital that grazing is measured and managed.

“It can then be balanced with the correct buffer feeding, to maximise DMIs (dry matter intakes) and margins,” he said.

“To maximise forage DMIs, we first need to know what we are feeding, so we should regularly analyse all forages, and balance them with the correct nutrients, such as structural fibre, sugar, starch, rumen protein, by-pass protein and rumen inert fatty acids.

“For example, with the lush, fresh grass in spring low in effective fibre levels, it is crucial to provide effective structural fibre to complement grazing, to maintain rumen health and milk quality, in particular butterfat.”

UFAC-UK said the producer needs to optimise the cow’s rumen function and rumen health.

Townsend said to address the anticipated spring and summer decline in butterfat percentages, it is important to supplement the total diet with a balanced fatty acid source.

For cows struggling at spring and into summer, he recommends looking into a fatty acid supplement to help optimise butterfat percentages.

“By managing the rumen and feeding balanced fatty acid supplementation while cows are grazing, you will be able to maintain milk yield, herd health and fertility, while reducing butterfat depression. All this will support your margins,” he said.