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A fresh approach to feeding dairy cows at grass

With cows jumping for joy as they rush out to fresh, sweet pasture, focus inevitably turns to how we can we make the most of what is our most readily available and cost effective feed, whilst at the same time ensuring we can still support the requirements of cows yielding over 25 litres.

The traditional approach is to simply top up higher yielders in the parlour with a low protein, high fibre compound.  However, whilst this will help meet the nutritional needs of cows on paper, summer dairy compounds often fail to offset some of the weaknesses of grass such as a lack of structural fibre and high acidosis risk, resulting in poor grass utilisation, low butterfats, body condition loss and a drop in fertility.

If you have ever put compound into a glass of warm water then you will notice that it quickly disintegrates into what it ultimately is, compressed flour.  So, if the fibre in summer compounds is not capable of helping to physically hold lush grass in the rumen, then why do we feed high fibre compounds at all?  The answer is because fibre is low in energy, safe and slowly broken down. This is important because lush fresh grass, which is highly fermentable and 20% sugar, poses a very really risk of inducing acidosis in the rumen.  Add to this the fact that any compound will also be quickly washed out of the rumen and into the intestine, where any cereal in the compound will be quickly broken down and risk inducing hindgut acidosis. It is for this very reason why summer compounds typically incorporate low energy, high fibre raw materials – good for reducing the risk of rumen and hindgut acidosis but exactly the opposite of what a high yielding cow restricted to 5kg/day actually needs.

ALpHA barley is not only alkaline, which means it helps buffer acids in the rumen, but is chunky,  resembling farm-rolled barley, which means it is also slowly broken down in the rumen.  This allows us to feed high levels of safe, high-energy starch at grass to drive milk yield, whilst also maintaining rumen pH for optimum butterfat production.

ALpHAblend Gold 16 is a palatable, high energy, nutty blend containing high levels of ALpHA barley designed specifically to be fed in parlours.  A simple, wholesome blend containing only raw materials that you know and trust, ALpHAblend Gold 16 represents a fresh and effective approach to parlour feeding that, rather than dissolving down to a powder, actually expands in the rumen, helping retain fresh grass in the rumen for longer to improving utilisation and allowing cows to show their true potential.

So, what about the mineral supply of cows at grass - should we be as concerned? Absolutely. Not only is grazed grass often deficient in many major minerals such as sodium and magnesium, but also in key trace elements such as selenium and zinc that are required to maintain hoof integrity and help reduce somatic cell counts.  This is of particular concern with low yielders, dry cows and youngstock at grass who are receiving little or no feed and consequently do not often consume sufficient minerals.

The easiest and most effective way to ensure that all cows receive sufficient mineral at grass is to offer them access to ad-lib weatherproofed powdered minerals either out in the field or in the collecting yard.  These minerals are not only very high spec, but are also 100% mineral - requiring only half the tonnage compared to molassed mineral buckets and using 95% less plastic.

For more information on feeding ALpHAblends through the parlour this summer or replacing molassed mineral buckets with weather-proofed Grassmins minerals, please give your Norvite feed adviser a ring at any time.

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