Last year dairy farmer, David Walker, was concerned about milk yields and fertility performance, but couldn’t get to the bottom of what was causing the issues with his herd.
Forage quality was excellent and yet the cows were not performing to their potential and the calving interval was slipping.
The 110-cow herd milked by the family partnership at High Woodifield Farm, near Crook in County Durham, are fed a TMR ration comprising grass silage, wholecrop silage and alkagrain, as well as rolled barley, sugar beet pulp and molasses.
Feed is topped up to yield in the parlour.
Worried about herd performance, David had taken advice from a number of people, but no-one could identify what the problem might be. Until he started working with Debby Brown at Advanced Nutrition, that is – she suggested that David’s high-quality home grown forage could be leading to rumen acidosis.“Debby recommended that we put straw and rumen buffers in the diet, as our silage was perhaps too powerful,” David explained. 4kg of straw per cow per day was duly added to the TMR mix, along with rumen buffers to try to control rumen acidity and improve rumen function, but despite this delivering improvements, things were still not right.“We saw an improvement but it was clear that we needed to do more and so Debby suggested we tried Actisaf® in the ration in place of the buffers,” David said. Actisaf® was added as a farm pack to enable easy on-farm use through a mixer wagon. David started using it at the manufacturer’s recommended rate and saw an immediate improvement.
“The improvement was very quick – within a couple of weeks,” David explained. “The biggest change was in cudding – cows started cudding normally again and general cow health seemed to improve. Cows looked better and we saw a marked yield response of about 7 liters/cow/day, although they were struggling before. ”
The positive impact the Actisaf® made was reinforced for David when he inadvertently ran out of farm pack.“We had 3 days when we didn’t include the farm pack in the ration, as we’d run out, and the cows just crashed – yields went down by 2-3 litres/cow/day and were only restored when we put the Actisaf® back in – that gave me confidence that it was having a big effect,” David explained. As well as having an impact on milk output,
fertility has also improved, with calving to conception down from 137 days to 110 days since Actisaf® was introduced, and calving to first service down by 11 days.
“We still have some way to go with our fertility, as you can’t change things overnight, but we are definitely moving in the right direction,” said David.
Milk yields are now running at just over 10,000 liters for a 305 day average and milk quality is good at 4.1% butterfat and 3.15% protein.And David doesn’t see himself making any changes to his nutritional approach in the near future. “The support we’ve had from Debby has been fantastic and we will continue to focus on growing high-quality forages and using as much home grown forage as we can,” he concluded.
“I am pleased with the results that we get from Actisaf® too, so that is definitely part of our ration moving forward.”