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Sustainable Farming Summit: Making sure cows are well fed

April 7, 2022, 12:05 p.m.

With breeding season approaching on farms, last night’s Sustainable Breeding Summit panel discussed pre-breeding cow nutrition.

Spring on many farms has been a challenge with the weather turning as many farmers seek to get the cows out.

As a result, some farms have cows whose body condition score (BCS) is below the ideal value before the breeding season.

Sustainable Livestock Summit

During last night’s episode of the Sustainable Livestock Summit, Martin Kavanagh asked Munster Bovine Veterinary Surgeon Denis Howard to explain the term ‘fully fed’.

Denis said: “We are three to four weeks away from the start of breeding on the farms and what happened in the spring has happened.

“Now we want to make sure that the cows are well fed. So basically what they receive is what they produce.

“So it really helps to control the amount of grass they eat, for example, a cow producing 26 litres, if she eats 15 kg dry matter of grass/day, she needs 3 kg of concentrates.

“So get an idea of ​​how much grass they’re consuming and how much they’re producing, so you can fill in the gap to make sure they’re fully fed and their nutrition is as good as possible. until breeding.”

Cows with low BCS

Asked about cows with BCS that are too low heading into the breeding season, Howard said, “I would advise farmers to take stock and do a rough BCS of the entire herd.

“What I mean by tough is choosing cows that are lean and in poor condition – cows that have less than 2.75 BCS.”

Continuing, he said, “There are several options for farmers who have cows in a low BCS.

“If the type of cow is right, milking once a day (OAD) is a really practical option. Run them with the herd and feed them twice a day and treat them OAD.

“What you are effectively doing is reducing their production by a third and their nutrition remains the same.

“They will be in a positive energy balance, which will allow them to gain a little weight and condition and they will [cycle] faster.

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