Having good feed efficiency within winter milk systems is vital for a margin to be achieved on milk produced during the housed period.
Winter milk production usually involves more concentrates or imported feed onto the farm being fed to cows.
Concentrates or imported feed are expensive, so it is important that they are maximised to achieve their full potential.
Low milk prices mean that margins on winter milk farms are likely to be tight, so it important that cows are not being overfed and thus money being wasted.
Feed is the largest expense in winter-milk systems, but savings can be made by ensuring cows are not being overfed.
Feed intakes or allocated feed intakes should be determined by the output of the cows.
Almost all autumn-calving or winter milk herds will have a spring-calving herd also; once these cows enter the shed they should ideally not be kept together.
They should instead be split into groups, such as:
- Group 1 – highest yielding / early lactation group (cows giving more than 28kg milk or less than 150 days in-milk);
- Group 2 – lower yielding / late lactation group (cows giving less than 28kg milk or more than 150 days in-milk).
Cows should be grouped to ensure that feed going into cows is used in an efficient way, setting the amount of concentrates or bought in feed/cow in the diet feeder to suit the lowest yielding cow in the group.
Good quality silage (74+ DMD [dry matter digestibility]) and up to 7kg of concentrates daily, allows cows with yields of 28kg of milk to be managed satisfactorily.
To determine the quality of your silage you need to complete a silage quality test.
These concentrates can be split between the diet feeder and parlour, with higher yielding cows offered extra concentrates in line with how much milk they are producing.
Speak with your advisor and nutritionist to determine what the base level feeding for your herd should be.
Once this has been determined, you can decide in what increments concentrate feeding will increase and at what level it should stop.
Although feeding cows to meet their production potential is important, over-feeding can cause issues too and should also be avoided.