Efficient use of grass by precision feeding can help dairy producers increase milk from forage and thereby reduce pressure from higher feed costs.

According to Mike Chown, ruminant technical manager at UFAC-UK, there is plenty of forage on most farms this season and margins can be achieved by ensuring optimal DMI.

Mr Chown advises farmers to focus on what they want the cows to achieve, and consider how they can harness seasonality benefits alongside the nutritional supplementation required to support grazing, if they are to maximise the price received from contracts and increase margins.

“We want cows to graze efficiently and to milk in a way that can achieve those best returns, through a combination of good quality milk and hitting the profile.

“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 sugar, starch, rumen protein, by-pass protein and rumen inert fatty acids,” explains Mr Chown.

“We must ensure speed of break down in the rumen is matched, while at the same time, paying attention to acid loading and rumen pH. This will optimise rumen microbes to promote fibre digestion and intakes, most cost-effectively."

Once microbial protein and VFAs (volatile fatty acids) from the rumen have been optimised, Mr Chown says adding ‘little bombs’ high in the specified nutrients, such as rumen inert/bypass proteins and fatty acids, will help meet the cow requirements. Forage rations are typically low in these.

“When doing this, it is important that every purchased feed is most cost-effective for the nutrient it is contributing to, for example, not just looking at crude protein, but also looking at the cost of rumen degradable and rumen undegradable protein such as amino acids,” continues Mr Chown.

He added that cows need to be healthy and fertile and meet their specific requirements through their production cycle, so when looking at cutting feed costs, it is important to target the correct animals and look after the transition and efarly lactation cows until confirmed in calf.

Mr Chown says suitable adjustments and additions to dairy diets can have a big impact on performance, health and fertility, and therefore margins.

“If you feed for a return, then correctly balanced fat supplements have an essential place in diets, particularly as maintaining milk quality, fertility and mobility can be a challenge when cows are at grass,” he adds.