To milk or not to milk
Date: 26 February 2018
It’s well understood that extending lactation is an excellent way to increase milk production and ideally, profitability.
Once a cow is dry, she will produce no more milk until next season, so it makes sense to examine whether extending lactation is an option on your farm.
So, how can maize silage aid farmers to extend lactation without sacrificing animal health, or wasting feed?
Feed maize silage to keep cows in milk:
Milking on has the potential to be lucrative, especially at a $6.40/kgMS payout.
Cows producing as little as 0.7kgMS/cow/day, fed maize silage (45 c/kgDM eaten, 10.8 MJME/kgDM) generate a return of more than $2.15 per cow per day. This translates to a return of more than $860/day for a 400-cow herd. – ARE THESE FIGURES CORRECT WITH NEW PAYOUT FIGURE?
With a substantial financial gain to be made, it makes sense to milk on instead of drying off.
Feed maize silage to fill feed deficits:
Climate variability has meant that feed deficits have become all too common in late summer and early autumn, so having feed on hand in late lactation can be a real contribution to significant, profitable responses in milk.
A trial conducted at Waimate West Dem Farm in the late 1990s clearly showed that using maize silage to turn a dry day into a milking day resulted in a milk response rate of 180gMS/kgDM fed.
And should the season be outstanding, with plenty of pasture available, maize will keep perfectly in an uncovered stack – ready for use when required.
Use maize silage to extend the milking round and build pasture cover:
Maize silage is an effective tool to help farmers lengthen their round and build pasture cover prior to winter.
If cows are fed maize silage when there is adequate pasture, they will tend to leave pasture behind; however, while this is a problem in spring, it can be a benefit in autumn, as it allows farmers to build pasture cover while still fully feeding their cows.
Feeding maize silage to achieve and maintain Body Condition Score (BCS):
Extending lactation should only ever be considered if you can achieve and maintain Body Condition Score (BCS) targets of 5.5 for your first and second calvers, and 5.0 for the rest of the cows in the herd.
Maize silage is an ideal farm system feed to help you do this, as it keeps cows in milk while protecting body condition and pasture cover levels.
Cows at BCS 5 at calving will produce around 10-15kg more milk solids and will cycle around 10 days earlier than cows at BCS 4 – reasons in themselves to use maize silage to achieve an ideal BCS.
Extending lactation is an excellent way to increase milk production and recoup unavoidable losses in the form of payout or climate variability – and feeding maize silage is a key part of remaining profitable throughout a challenging time of year.
To learn more about feeding maize silage in late lactation and making the most of the rest of the season, call 0800 PIONEER (746 633).