2013-05-20   facebook twitter rss
Don’t Expect Too Much From Grass

Many dairy producers will be relieved to see temperatures increase and grass start to grow. A hint that turnout for many might be around the corner comes with some relief to many where forage stocks have dwindled and there’s little left for buffer feeding.

But Provimi’s ruminant technology manager Philip Ingram casts a word of caution as producers are forced to rely on spring grass more heavily than they would normally.

Dr Philip Ingram, Provimi ruminant manager UK and Ireland

Dr Philip Ingram, Provimi ruminant manager UK and Ireland

“In most years, producers will start by turning cows out for part of the day and buffer feed at the same time,” says Dr Ingram. “This helps to condition the rumen and avoids an acid overload that can cause acidosis.”

Grazed grass offers readily available energy and protein in abundance but with little in the way of structural fibre to slow down the digestive process. As spring grass is rapidly digestible, fermentation acids are produced much faster than the digestive system can clear them. The result can be acidosis and an upset in normal intake patterns. This is one major contributory cause of reduced butterfat at grass but it can also lead to lameness and poor fertility.

“Acidosis in grazing diets is more prevalent than generally realised. A recent university study in Ireland found that 11% of grazing cows had acidosis whilst 42% were marginal. Due to low forage stocks this spring, I can see the transition from winter rations to grazed grass will be faster this year. Also, we’re likely to see spring grass catch up on lost time and grow very rapidly. So the risk of acidosis and reduced butterfat could well be much greater.”

Buffer feeding of forages helps to ‘buffer’ the effects of the acidity coming from the rapidly digested grass. If forage supplies are limited, Dr Ingram is advising producers to use a rumen buffer which will help to bolster the cow’s natural buffering ability.

Recent trial work has shown that the rumen buffer Equaliser, which is a combination of several buffering agents, will help to stabilise rumen fermentation when the cow faces an acidosis challenge. The magnitude of the response in butterfat will depend on the severity of the problem. It has been proven to increase butterfat by up to 0.53% in recent scientific experiments.

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