Dairy at CAFRE

This section of the Dairy Farming website provides information on what dairy related activity is happening at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE.

CAFRE Dairy Unit

This state of the art new dairy unit at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE will provide a modern facility to·meet student education and industry training needs as well as·demonstrating new and innovative technologies. The unit will also provide "best-in-class" demonstration facilities for the those in and entering the dairy industry.

For more information, please visit our CAFRE Dairy Unit section.

The Future Herd

Dr Alastair Boyle Dairy Technologist, Greenmount Campus, CAFRE

Spring 2015

The Greenmount Future Herd of 150 dairy cows is predominantly autumn calving. This calving pattern fits well with the agricultural education courses as the new intake of students arrive in September when the calving season is about to commence. Students have the opportunity to be involved with dry cow management, calf rearing, winter feeding, herd fertility and grassland management in the spring including grazing and silage production.

The current 12 month rolling average milk yield is 8,986 litres of milk sold per cow, feeding 2.6 tonnes of concentrate or 0.30 kg/litre, as summarised in Table 1. Following turnout in early March, grazing has been challenging due to both variable grass growth and poor grazing conditions, requiring additional concentrates to be fed. The month of May is usually a period when milk from grass can be maximised, with a production of M+ of 25 litres usually achieved by the Future Herd.  However, to date this May the target is set at 5 litres less.

Table 1- Future Herd 12 month rolling average performance data
Milk yield 8986 litres/cow
Milk from forage 3026 litres/cow
Milk solids 672 kg/cow
Concentrates 2612 kg/cow
Concentrates/litre 0.30 kg/litre
Butterfat 4.17%
Protein 3.30%

Management of the grazing group

At present a total of 94 autumn calving cows are at grass full time, yielding, on average 27 litres/cow/day. Initially, a group of 40 cows were turned out to grass on the 10th of March for 3 hours each day, with grazing increasing to fulltime over the month. This group of cows have proved to be the most challenging to manage, taking into account the changeable weather.

Flexibility in grazing management has been key, both in terms of good field access to minimise poaching, i.e. different entry and exit points, along with using additional temporary fences. Secondly, adaptability in terms of taking the decision based on ground/weather conditions to either re-house full time or part time and additional silage/blend feed at milking or overnight.

All cows are fed to yield in the milking parlour using herd management software. Currently the M+ for cows and heifers grazing fulltime are set at 20 and 17 litres from grass, which reflects the current weather/grazing conditions.  Normally in good grazing conditions during May/June these M+ figures would be higher to maximise milk from grass. The supplementation rate is set to 0.45 kilos of concentrate per litre of milk above the M+ figure.

Grass covers are assessed on a weekly basis by walking all paddocks across the grazing platform. This data is entered into a grazing management programme, which aids decision making. The aim is to ensure cows graze high quality grass, with pre grazing covers of between 2800-3000 kg/DM/ha. Any paddocks with heavier covers have been taken out for big bale silage – a simple but effective tool to aid grass supply and sward quality. The target M+ settings are reviewed and adjusted accordingly, based on sward quality, grazing conditions and cow body condition score. Even though the spring to date has been difficult every effort is being made to achieve good production from grass. This is particularly relevant in the current climate of low milk prices and should be the aim of every dairy farmer.

Management of the high yielding group

The high yielders were turned out to grass on the 9th of April for half-day grazing. Currently this group of 46 cows are yielding on average 41 litres/cow/day. Both batches of cows are grazed as one group, with the high yielding cows automatically drafted out after evening milking and given access to TMR at night (grass/maize silage and 5kg of 17% CP blend, Table 2). Total dry matter intake (DMI) for this group ranges between 24-25kg/cow/day. Again with this group, decisions in terms of grazing management are based on weather/ground conditions.  Cows from this group will transfer to the full time grazing following positive pregnancy diagnosis and the 2 groups will be merged into one in early July.

Table 2- Forage analysis of high yielders TMR
  Dry matter (%) ME (MJ/kg/DM) Protein (% DM)
Round bale 42 10.9 11.9
Maize 35 12 8.5

Feed efficiency is essential particularly at low milk prices. Walking grazing swards weekly and measuring grass covers to match grass supply with herd demand means when the surge in growth occurs you are in a better position to react quickly. This will allow you to maintain herd performance avoiding stemmy swards with wasted grass later in the season.

Co-Operative for Real Education in Agriculture Management (CREAM)

CREAM is a unique and exciting educational experience which Greenmount Campus has integrated into its Higher National Diploma (HND) Agriculture and BSc Agricultural Technology courses.

All information on the CREAM herd can be found on the CAFRE website.

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