Think your cows automatically know how to graze effectively? Think again?

Published 23 March 09

Get as much control over what your cows eat in the grazing season as you have when they are housed by getting them to graze how and when you want, says DairyCo extension officer Piers Badnell.

 "Winter feeding systems are all well controlled, and there is no reason why you shouldn't have the same control over your grazed grass," explains Piers, "a key factor in achieving this is teaching your cows how to graze."

"Don't give cows the opportunity to pick and choose the best bits when it comes to grazing.  Make sure you are allocating them the quantity only just sufficient for their needs so they have no choice but to eat it," he says. "Good rotational grazing will deliver high quality, palatable forage.  If the grass offered is in any way old or soiled intakes will fall.

"Palatability is all important," he continues. "If intakes are not what you would expect check the soil analysis.  Is the ph right?  Is it an area that you have put a lot of dirty water on over the winter?  These will both effect palatability.

"Don't feed the cows before they go out to graze, send them out with an edge to their appetite," he continues.  "Make use of the hormonal serge the cow receives just after milking that makes her want to eat and drink.  And ensure she has plenty of clean water close to hand. If she has to walk more than 100 metres her water consumption will fall."

"Finally, think about training your cows to graze properly on a rotational basis when they are heifers. They will then enter the herd grazing like real pros!" he concludes.

grass+, the DairyCo grassland management improvement programme hasbeen updated and is being published  this spring.  For more information contact your local DairyCo extension officer or DairyCo publications on 01285 646510.

Ends

Date 23 March 2009

For further information:

N:        Helen Bond

T:         01285 646544

M :       07980 555369

E:         helen.bond@dairyco.org.uk

Notes for Editors:

DairyCo's current focus is on improving the profitability of dairy farming by focusing on four specific areas:

  • The provision of a world-class information service
  • Helping dairy farmers increase their profits while meeting regulatory and environmental requirements - through better business management.
  • Helping promote the positive perception of dairy products and dairy farming with the general public
  • The development of DairyCo towards a self-sustaining model.

DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold off-farm, at the rate of 0.06p per litre.  This provides an annual income of around £7m.

DairyCo co-funds the industry's nutritional and issues management resource - The Dairy Council - with the processors' trade body Dairy UK.

DairyCo Limited was set up in April 2008 following a fundamental review of agricultural levy boards by Defra. The five existing levy boards (including the Milk Development Council) were replaced by one statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Reporting in to AHDB are six sector companies - DairyCo covers the milk sector.