Someone who has encountered problems around housing in the autumn is Joe McArdle of Co Monaghan, Ireland, with in his 135-strong herd of Meuse Rhine Issel (MRI or “Rotbunt”) cattle.
Whilst not a common breed, the MRI is dual-purpose, originating from Germany and the Netherlands, and known for its high-quality milk, which Joe’s herd demonstrates by delivering annual average milk solids of 4.55 per cent butterfat 3.7 per cent protein. What’s more, this is not at the expense of milk production, with the herd delivering an average yield of 6,000 litres from a pasture-based system.
As well as great production, the fertility of the herd is also excellent, and a point of pride for Joe. “This year we had 125 cows serviced using AI in 3 weeks and after just one serve, 90 of them were in calf! I was really pleased about that,” he explained.
After the herd calves in spring, the cows are put out to pasture for grazing over the summer, before being housed indoors over the winter months.
“Last autumn during the transition from grazing to silage, we encountered some trouble,” Joe said. “The cows’ dung became the consistency of toothpaste, they were mopey and dull in the eye. Soon after that we started seeing compacted rumens in several of them and, regrettably, we eventually lost two cows.”
Joe turned to local veterinarian Paddy McGinn for advice. Paddy suggested the addition of Actisaf live yeast to the diet at the time of housing to improve the herd’s rumen function and to generally benefit the cows during what can be a stressful period. Within a few days of adding Actisaf to the diet, Paddy and Joe saw positive changes within the herd.
“We started using it immediately because of the situation we were in, we couldn’t afford to lose another cow. The dung consistency improved quickly and the cows really brightened up, it really was impressive. We’ll definitely continue to use Actisaf in the autumn diets – it really saved us!”