Farmer Field Day – Pip Gale Leased Property

January 2017

“I want to demonstrate that feeding a higher rate is still financially viable.”

Pip Gale

In 2016 Dairy Nutritionist Pip Gale took on the lease of a 65 hectare property near Te Aroha, milking a herd of 215 predominantly jersey and jersey cross cows. Pip’s one of Australasia’s leading dairy nutrient experts and consulting dairy nutritionist to the Dairy Nutrition Specialists. He’s taken on the farm to take his own advice and demonstrate the real life benefits of implementing balanced dairy nutrition strategies.

Dairy Nutrition Specialist Graham Haugh hosted customers from the Central Waikato region at farm field day on Pip’s property in December 2016. Twenty-five farmers took up the invitation with the promise of interesting conversations and the opportunity to have burning questions answered.

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The burning question

Q:  If the average meal feeding rate is 2-3kg a day why is Pip feeding 5kg? 
A:  Because I can, but I also want to demonstrate that feeding a higher rate is still financially viable.

As well as meal feeding (up to 5kg a day), pre-graze topping and nitrogen use were major factors in farm operations, to contribute to cows getting total dry matter intake of 19kg. The herd was producing 1.95kg MS a day, having peaked at 2.1kg MS daily which they maintained for 4 weeks.  For the first time on the farm a turnip crop (3.5 ha) has been planted to support late summer grazing from February.

(Note: As at 10 January 2017 the herd is still producing 1.95kg MS, feed rate in shed is 5.5kg, total dry matter intake remains at 19kg a day.)

Attendees walked the property to observe pasture quality and herd condition, coming to the consensus pasture quality was excellent and herd condition good. Pip also reported that the 3-week submission rate was 96% with 38 CIDR’s used 10 days prior to mating.

And then discussions shifted to the impact of forage NDF on dry matter intake and production returns, and the benefits of going into dry off with the girls carrying good body condition scores.


How forage quality impacts dry matter intake

Pip and Graham illustrated just how much forage NDF and affects the herd’s dry matter intake. And, in turn, financial returns.


A 500kg dairy cow requires 20kg dry matter intake per day to maintain optimum production.

In spring she can consume 18.7kg of pasture dry matter, but in the summer she can only consume 14.5kg.  That’s 5.5kg below her optimum level:

500kg cow needs 20kg DM per day
Summer forage intake 14.5kg DM per day
Shortfall 5.5kg DM per day
Milk production impact At 1.8 litre per kg dry matter = 9.9 litres milk
At 9% test = 890 grams MS being lost
Lost earnings 890 grams x $6.00 =$5.34 of lost income per cow/day
If we add 6kg meal to diet Spend $3.30 for potential gain of $5.30
Potential financial gain $2.00 per cow/day.

The upshot of this is, if we can get to May producing say 1.5kg MS versus the usual 0.8 to 1kg MS, the return is even greater.  With Fonterra paying an extra $2.20 for each kg milk solids, that could potentially be worth an extra $4.10 per cow a day.


Benefits to feeding going into dry-off

Further to improved production returns, at the higher feeding rate, we would expect the herd to be gaining weight, which is all good. We want our herd to dry off in the condition we want them to calve in, i.e. a condition score of 5. Cows going into dry off well fed need less DM come pre-calving trying to play catch up to reach optimal condition for calving.


Feed requirements prior to calving for a 500kg dairy cow dried off in BCS 5.

 -6 weeks-4 weeks-2 weeks
Energy required for:
Maintenance and activity 72mj 72mj 72mj
Pregnancy 23mj 41mj 54mj
Feed required:
Kg DM/day 8.65kg 10.3kg 11.5kg

Now the same cow dried off in a body condition score of 4.5.

 -6 weeks-4 weeks-2 weeks
Energy required for:
Maintenance and activity 72mj 72mj 72mj
Pregnancy 23mj 41mj 54mj
Weight gain to get to a 5 BCS 28mj 28mj 28mj
Feed required:
Kg DM/day 11.8kg 12.8kg 14kg

As you can see there is a huge benefit in drying off cows in body condition score 5. This can only be achieved if we are optimally feeding our cows all season.


More information

If you’d like more information about the field day or any of the topics discussed, please contact your local Dairy Nutrition Specialist.

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