Successful start to the grazing season

As the dairy cows have been getting a constant ration of silage and additional components for the last few months, you must make sure that the feed change from silage to grazing happens in slow steps and not too abruptly.

Why slow?

In contrast to silage the young grass has a very high sugar and protein content and is extremely easy to digest. All this can lead to acidification of the rumen in animals, which causes digestive disorders and can stop the rumen working.

How is it done?

To avoid rumen disorders, every time feed is changed, even when changed to grazing, a transferring process should be followed. It is important not to make the animals fully graze in vegetation all the time. It is easier to, initially, let the animals graze for 2-3 hours in the early vegetation phase, when the grass is not yet too long. During a period of approx. two weeks it makes sense to slowly wean the animals off the winter ration and increasingly reduce the winter ration day by day as grass consumption increases.

At the start of the grazing season some practitioners also feed the cows with silage etc. first until they are full, and then move the cows to the pastures while sated for the first few days. This stops the animals from consuming too much grass at the start and therefore keeps the issue of acidification of the rumen under control.

Prevent acidification of the rumen!

Buffer substances have proved invaluable in the last few years, especially for high output animals. The aim is to maintain an optimum pH value and to keep the rumen running.

One very successful product from our company is JOSERA Multi-Buffer PLANT.

This product is a concentrate made of various buffer substances with a broad range of effects, enhanced with herbs and plant extracts to aid feed intake and feed conversion.

In addition to stabilising pH, measures can be taken for rumen stimulation. Our product DairyPilot already plays an important role here on many farms. This product contains B vitamins and a large amount of living yeasts which have a positive effect on microbial growth. This leads to improved digestion, especially crude fibre digestion, and allows grass energy to be better utilised.

Ration calculation for pasture grazing

One difficulty with grazing is that feed quality is not always constantly uniform. It depends on the grazing intensity, the fertiliser intensity and, of course, the grass quality. In spite of this it is also worth calculating rations here, to ensure the most exact supply possible. Moreover, weather conditions must be taken into account: in strong sunshine the grass will contain more sugar, and this will probably have to be supplemented with more protein. The opposite is true in overcast or rainy weather. In this situation the grass does not have a high sugar content and the ration must be supplemented with energy. Practitioners report that they use two compensating chucks in this period, one energy and one protein feed, and can use these to adapt the ration day by day.

Benefits of pasture grazing

  • reduced work load
  • good protein supply
  • improving animal health
  • vitamin supply (especially beta-carotene and vitamin E)
  • potentially reducing feed costs
  • reduced space requirement for silage and slurry storage
  • increased fertility
  • reducing hoof and limb diseases

Grazing dairy cows?

Pasture feed is the cheapest staple feed. A glance at the nutritional value of fresh pasture grass shows it is absolutely comparable with concentrated feed in terms of energy concentration and protein content. Is that worthwhile for a farmer?

Nutritional value fresh pasture grass

(first growth before the first step / before first grazing, Bundesland Brandenburg)

JOSERA content in dry matter

Practitioners know that’s a snapshot. Depending on the weather and the plants the composition of the feed changes daily. As little as four days later the crude fibre content will have increased by approx. 24%. Within two weeks the feed will probably be over mature, with approx. 28% crude fibre. Sophisticated pasture management and continuous supplementary feeding in the stall ensure roughly stable output over the year.

On the farm of family Kempf in Klein-Mutz, district Oberhavel Brandenburg, there are 40 ha grassland around the stall. The acreage is divided into paddocks so that the animals are on the plots for as little time as possible and the sward can renew in the fallow period. In the spring the acreage was fertilised with ASN and potash. Manure is applied directly into the ground, as an organic fertiliser. This ensures a good yield. The acreage is grazed or mowed, depending on growth. The wilted silage is immediately stored in silage bunkers at the stall. As pastures close to the stall are mainly used for dairy cows, to keep the route to milking short for the animals, supplementary feeding in the stall has proven its worth.

A half-day pasturage is calculated into the ration here. In comparison to winter feeding significant amounts of protein concentrate and wilted silage can be saved here.

JOSERA lactating cows
JOSERA breeding management system controlling

The results show: the cows produce a herd average of 30 litres a day, summer and winter with or without grazing. There are no serious fluctuations in the content or milk quantity. Young pasture grass has very little crude fibre, so if there is too little supplementary feeding fat content can drop dramatically. Years ago, something similar happened, reported the herd manager. An exact ration calculation pinpointed the causes. Since then all components in the TMR in the stall are fed further so that the cows can balance the nutritional value changes in the grass themselves.

JOSERA monthly results - milk average
JOSERA graphic shows the substance of urea

High animal output requires optimal grazing and feeding management.

The grazing behaviour follows a daily rhythm and environmental temperatures influence grazing behaviour. On hot days grazing consumption goes down significantly during the hours with the highest temperatures, between 11am and 4pm. Therefore, in Klein-Mutz the cows graze early in the morning after milking. At midday they are brought back to the stall for milking and feeding and are kept there, protected in the shade, during the hot afternoon hours.

For portion grazing a medium growth height of 20 to maximum 35 cm is ideal. Short grass grazing allows for significantly lower growth heights of 8 to 14 cm. Care must be taken that at least 6 cm is left after the grazing. Paddock grazing, practised in Klein-Mutz, results in leftover feed, which is removed in a cleaning section after every grazing period, to curb the spread of unwanted plants. Pasturage suits the natural behaviour of ruminants. The movement, consumption of fresh feed, light and air are good for the animals’ health.

Pros and cons of cattle grazing
Cows stay clean Herd observation isn‘t that easy -> Diseases, heat and calving is not obvious
Claws get spared, cleaned and dried Milking with robots has to be managed
Joints get spared Targeted fertilisation of fields must be planned
Lying is possible everywhere
Lower costs for feed, work
More money for the milk
Less place needed for manure and silage
Higher fertility
Good vitamin and protein supply
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