Making The Most of Early Grass In Omagh
7th April 2017

Pictured: (L-R) Mervyn King - Fane Valley Feeds, Dr. Hazel Gilmore - Fane Valley Feeds & Andrew Wright - Dairy Farmer

Andrew and William Wright farm outside Omagh and their 160 Holstein Friesian cows started grazing on 25th March 2017. The herd is split calving with 50% calving in Spring and 50% calving in Autumn. At present the herd is averaging 27 litres and since grazing commenced, milk yield has increased by 2 litres per cow. Currently, the herd are grazing off winter covers during the day and Andrew is hoping for cows to be at grass full-time by 7th April.

Over the last few years, the Wrights have placed much more emphasis on milk from forage and as Andrew explains; “In 2013-14, our milk form forage was -70 litres and wasn’t sustainable so we have put cows to grass earlier this year to graze off winter covers and hope to manage grass better so we can maximise the potential of our cheapest feed”.

The herds milk from forage for 2015-16 was 1400 litres and Andrew has set himself a target of 3000 litres within the next few years. “We have also placed greater emphasis on grass silage quality and this year our first cut analysed at over 11 ME which helped us to reduce concentrate feed rates compared with previous years. Our concentrate feed rate for the last 12 months has been 0.35kg/litre and I hope to reduce this further” continues Andrew.

Hazel Gilmore, Ruminant Nutritionist with Fane Valley Feeds advises; “It is important to analyse the nutrient content of grass and using our NIR4Farm analysers, we are able to do this on farm with immediate results. Grass can be difficult to manage and having real-time results allows the diet and feed rates to be altered accordingly.”

Hazel continues; “The Wrights only concentrate feed is offered through the parlour so meeting the energy requirements of higher yielding cows while maintaining rumen health is more difficult. Having good quality silage and grazing available helps to increase energy intakes with benefits to rumen health, milk quality, body condition and fertility – key parameters that underpin overall performance.” Andrew continues, “We have adopted a rigorous reseeding regime which has helped increase grass growth and forage quality as these swards can be harvested or grazed more frequently”. “Andrew can rhyme off every detail of his herds performance and costs of production and this detailed approach should see the Wrights herd become a very sustainable system” confirms Hazel.