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Inclusion of grazed grass in high production cow dietsAugust 2016

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In areas where full Total Mixed Ration (TMR) systems are common practice like Northern Ireland and the UK, downward pressure on margins has led to increased interest in the use of grazed grass and/or zero grazing in the diet. If managed correctly it is probably the best and most cost effective forage on the farm.

Jonathan Knox

Jonathan Knox

“These cows are producing large volumes of milk and the last thing we want is instability. The addition of 5 kg of grazed grass dry matter (DM) can result in a reduction in feed costs of 60p/cow/day, meaning a saving of £1800 for a 100 cow herd per month” according to InTouch feeding specialist for Northern Ireland, Jonathan Knox. However, logic and experience suggests that once cows get access to grass, milk yield will reduce on these cows. The amount of this drop will determine whether access to grass has been successful or not.

Farms taking on grazing for the first time move from just managing cows to now managing cows and grass. In order to avoid a large drop in milk yield we need to maintain feed quality, keeping quantity of feed or dry matter intake (DMI) and be as consistent as possible. Thus a number of principles need to be adhered to

  • Set grass allocation – Put in a set amou
    nt of grass into the cows i.e. 30kg fresh (5kg DM) as this will mean <25% of the diet is variable and hence DMI will not fluctuate a lot due to weather changes and thus DM of grass.
  • Keeping high quality grass in the system – Measurement and management is the key in all of this with one being
    useless w
    ithout the other. Set stocking and using poorer quality strong grass is not good enough.
  • Zero grazing – This can be very positive based on land fragmentation and equipment availability but care must be taken when calculating the cost of this. Grass is a cost effective source of feed but you must fully cost in the capital; labour and wear and tear costs associated with zero grazing. In some instances you could be better off with cutting these areas and pitting as silage or grazing with young stock. Important points to monitor are
    • Knowing the weight of grass in the zero grazer.Group 26
    • Cutting in afternoon = good sugar levels
    • Cutting in morning = wetter; lower sugar grass but more consistent.
    • Adding zero grazing at the end mix for a short period to avoid mulching.


How KEENAN InTouch can help you

  1. KEENAN InTouch has over 25 years of nutritional expertise wworking with grazing farmers on how best to use TMR feeding to complement grazing. The supplementary feeds we recommend are based on effective fibre; good energy and lower protein levels to compliment the imbalances of grass. These are more cost effective than concentrate alone.
  1. The InTouch controller on the mixer allows farmers to adjust the amount of supplementary feed quickly due to changes in weather or grass availability while at the same time keep the consistency of the diet delivered and quantity every day.
  1. InTouch together with the capabilities of the KEENAN mixer produces this well balanced; consistent diet every day while retaining the structural fibre of the diet. This consistency brings about a better rumen environment thus you get better utilisation or feed efficiency of the feed and thus better production.
  1. KEENAN InTouch has now partnered with Teagasc Pasture Base to bring their grass measuring system to our InTouch PACE customers. The farmer measures the covers, InTouch does the computer work; produces the grass wedge and advises on this.


For more information or to expand on some of the points above please call InTouch on 0800 5873297 (NI/UK) or 0599101320 (ROI) to see how we can help you.

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