One farmer who has experienced sub-acute acidosis in his herd in the spring is Sean Cleere, who milks around 200 cows with his wife, Joanne, near Templetuohy in Co. Tipperary, with milk sold to Centenary Co-op.
Sean runs a spring calving herd with the aim being to maximise the utilisation and conversion of grass into milk solids. He starts calving at the end of January and cows typically go out in early March. Before turnout cows are fed concentrates as well as grass silage, and average concentrate use in 2016 was around 0.9t/cow, with Sean expecting to reduce this to around 0.75t/cow to make more milk from grass.
“Since quotas have disappeared we’ve been pushing for more yield from the herd,” explained Sean. “In 2014/15 we were only milking once a day at the end of lactation and typically we had dried up the herd by the time the clocks changed in the autumn, as we were limited by our quota, so we were producing around 420,000 litres of milk a year. Now we are producing 1.23 million litres, so production almost trebled during 2015 due to the change in management with the abolition of quotas. Cows now average 6,153 litres/lactation with average protein at 3.58% and butterfat at 3.95%, delivering a very healthy 460 kg of milk solids per cow per year and with around 4,150 litres coming from grazed grass and conserved forage.”
Back in April 2015 cows were getting a bit loose while grazing lush, leafy swards containing a high ratio of leaf to stem and limited structural fibre. Sean’s feed supplements adviser, Howard Stanley of Stanley Feed Supplements, recommended that he try feeding Actisaf® live yeast as well as combining this with some small tweaks to the compound feed, which is supplied by Centenary Feed and Grain.
“Actisaf® helps by stabilising rumen pH for cows at grass, promoting better rumen function and feed efficiency,” said Howard. “This allows the cows to digest and utilise the energy-dense spring grass better and, as a result, it has also been proven to increase milk yield and quality.”
Sean started feeding Actisaf® in May 2015 and noticed benefits straight away: “I was a bit sceptical but I noticed a difference in dung consistency when the Actisaf® went in initially, so that made me think it was doing some good with regards to digestion in the rumen,” explained Sean. “We have also historically seen milk butterfat % dip during spring grazing as well, so the impact that Actisaf® can have on milk quality was something that interested me.”
Sean was pleased with the initial results he saw, but milk butterfat results still dipped a bit in July 2015, and so Howard recommended increasing the amount of Actisaf® in the diet. “This definitely made a difference and butterfat improved, so we kept Actisaf® in the ration until the cows were dried off, as it was obviously doing some good.”
Moving forward to 2016, Sean’s cows were initially turned out without Actisaf being included in the feed, but he quickly saw the difference from the year before and so included the Actisaf® again, with similar promising results in terms of stable milk solids and dung consistency.
“I then got to the point when I dropped the feed rate from 4kg/head/day back to 2kg/head/day and the Actisaf® inclusion wasn’t adjusted straight away, and so, in effect, the cows weren’t getting sufficient yeast. Cow performance deteriorated and, as a result, Howard suggested adjusting the inclusion rate of Actisaf® to ensure the correct feed rate was being provided and, following this, the results spoke for themselves in terms of cow contentment, improved rumen function and enhanced production of milk solids,” Sean concluded.