Post Peak Rations

midlate lactation


Great start – keep pushing?

We’ve seen some spectacular milk production responses from fresh cows very early in their lactation this season. The benefits of integrated transition feeding programmes and average pasture covers have made it possible to achieve optimal dry matter intake (DMI) targets.

Herds consistently hitting 2.4-3.0kg milk solids daily, with compound feed rates of only 3-4kg per cow daily - within 30 days of calving - are proving that there are still gains to be made in sustainable milk solids production.

Beating post-peak decline

So now it’s late spring, the cows have peaked, mating is drawing to a close, you’ve conserved some silage and milk production has started it’s slow downhill trajectory. The decline in milk is due to a combination of factors, such as forage quality, hormonal adaptations, heat stress and fishing trips.

For many in the dairy industry, reaching the end of mating (artificial insemination) is often a pivot point at which supplementary feeding is turned off. But is this a good choice given the current milk payout? Is there a case to continue with supplementary feeds, or, even to consider increasing them? 

Tapping into autumn pay-outs

One of the variables that may influence us to keep pushing on with feed inputs during the late spring/summer months is the incentive of a high autumn milk solids payment. We know it’s easier to capitalise on this opportunity if the girls are still milking well in February. Any increase in the number of cows achieving 300 days of lactation (versus the national average of 270 days) means not only increased revenue, but an increase in the average payout received per kilogram of milk solids for the season.

Keeping production-friendly rations up

So what can we do with our rations to keep the girls firing through late spring/summer?

  • Maintain pasture quality as your first priority
  • Vegetative forages are more digestible than those that are mature/seeding, which means they provide more fermentable carbohydrates and metabolisable protein. This is the foundation level of milk production, so keep it vegetative!
  • Keep your girls cool as temperatures rise
  • Increased rates of respiration mean your cows will be burning blood glucose for thermo-regulation and maintenance. Remember any reduction in blood glucose means we make less lactose at the mammary gland and milk production will fall. Shade and sprinklers at the dairy are practical solutions.
  • Denature ryegrass toxins
  • If you have a history of perennial ryegrass toxicosis (PRGT) which is caused by the alkaloid toxins (endophyte) that naturally occur in pastures, incorporate a feed additive in your ration capable of denaturing the toxins that cause ryegrass staggers and severe heat stress. Note: clay based binders such as sodium bentonite are not effective against PRGT.
  • Cover off essential starches and proteins
  • Offer supplements that contain both rumen degradable and rumen escape starch, along with additional sources of metabolisable protein. Soybean, canola and cottonseed meals are the products of choice when the outcome you want is sustained milk solids production.

Success may be defined by the measure of difficulty you have drying your girls off this autumn. 

Talk to your Ingham Dairy Nutrition Specialist about a FREE post-peak nutrition plan to keep your autumn milk production flowing

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