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3. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
4 Gearing up for expansion in 2015
6 Can grass ploidy and clover affect milk production?
8 NewTrioBale compressor film
9 Industrial uses for grass
12 Is there potential for Lucerne in Ireland?
14 Early season dosing strategy essential for healthy stock
16 Lameness in dairy cattle
18 New developments in fertiliser
20 Fertilising the grass silage crop
22 Optimising first cut silage crops
24 Silage harvesting
26 Choice of silage additive can improve fertility
28 Technology helps farmers improve performance
30 Dairy farming expands inTasmania
32 Pitfalls of silo construction
36 High birth weights and good milk supply essential for profitable lamb production
38 Profits from ewes on a small farm
39 Major launches revamped disc mower
40 Improve silage quality with molasses
42 Keenan InTouch:the new way to getting results
44 Making use of grass and forage:back to basics
45 Total confinement vs. pasture systems:what does the science say?
Editor: Liam de Paor:
Managing Editor: Sinéad Keane
Production: Ciarán Brougham
Design: Martin Whelan, Michael Ryan, Niall O’Brien
Chief Executive: Rebecca Markey
Publisher: David Markey
Senior Advertising Manager: Anna Douglas
Accounts: Tricia Murtagh
Administration & Subscriptions: Sue Nolan
Printing: Turner’s Printing Company Limited
Publishers: IFP Media
Forage & Nutrition Guide 2014, 31 Deansgrange Road,
Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Tel: +353 1 289 3305 • Fax: +353 1 289 6406
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Copyright IFP Media 2014. No part of this publication may be
reproduced in any material form without the express written
permission of the publishers.
FORAGEAND NUTRITION GUIDE 2014
4. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
GEARING UP FOR EXPANSION IN 2015
Liam DE PAOR
As a result of good milk prices in Ireland over the past
year, we have experienced a super levy problem. We may
experience another in April 2015 if weather conditions
and grass growth are normal. The abolition of milk
quotas after 2015 is focusing minds on future expansion
and new dairy equipment. However, bearing in mind the
current level of soil fertility; the tight availability of winter
fodder; and, record livestock numbers, the country is
Many dairy farmers have cows that should be culled for
reasons such as poor fertility, lameness, high SCC counts,
mastitis problems and low milk solids. Reducing cow
numbers by 20 per cent and replacing them over the
next three years, with better bred replacements, would
solve a lot of problems. For a start, there would be more
grass and silage available, therefore, improving milk
yields and reducing the cost of purchased feed.
Another issue that has arisen over the past year is the
poor price of dairy calves. In Ireland, we are fortunate
that increased exports have prevented a further price
collapse. While the meat factories have been criticised
for changing their policies on the purchase of bull beef,
there is little demand anywhere for Jersey x bull calves.
The size of the suckler herd has been impacted by the
poor returns in beef farming.
So, will we we see more dry stock farmers increasing
their ewe flocks or indeed, getting back into sheep? The
return on investment is far better and much quicker. For
profitable lamb production, you need high birth weights
and a good milk supply from the ewes.
Both animals and heavy machinery caused a lot of
damage on wet land in recent years. As a result, we
need to reseed more permanent pastures with better
varieties. This will improve forage quality and availability,
while reducing the need for supplementary feeding with
expensive concentrates. Nevertheless, even on the best
farms and with normal weather conditions, there will
always be times when grass is in short supply.
So, do we need to look at alternatives such as brassicas,
and could Lucerne have a role to play? Teagasc is
carrying out some interesting research work at the
moment, highlighted throughout the issue. Brian
McCarthy has written an article, which looks at the affect
of grass ploidy and clover on milk production, while Dr
Padraig O’Kiely outlines the huge potential industrial
market for grass.
Animal health is an important issue as always. Chase
production and you get more health problems; chase
herd health and you are rewarded with higher milk yields
and improved liveweight gain. Whether it is lameness,
fertility issues or fluke and worm problems that you face
on your farm, working with your vet is imperative to
improving the situation. One sick animal takes as much
time to look after as 40 healthy animals.
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a concentrated form. Containing a unique
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Mineral Nutrition Products
Ultra-Mag (2.5% Mg) – Grass Tetany Prevention.
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complement of key trace elements plus Biotin.
All feeds suitable for feeding through the diet
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6. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
CAN GRASS PLOIDYAND CLOVER
AFFECT MILK PRODUCTION?
This experiment has been designed to investigate the
effect of tetraploid anddiploid swards with, and without,
clover inclusion on the productivity of springmilk
The utilisation of increased quantities of grazed grass at
farm level will provide the basis of sustainable livestock
systems. This will help to achieve the 50 per cent milk
production increase targeted in Food Harvest 2020. This
will be achieved by increasing stocking rates; improving
grassland management; and, increasing grass production
through the identification of grass cultivars more suitable
for grazing dairy cows.
Recent research has indicated that grazed tetraploid
swards produced more milk than diploid swards. Clover
has also shown beneficial effects in terms of nitrogen
(N) fixation, increased milk production and increased
grass dry matter (DM) production. However, these results
need to be extrapolated into larger systems experiments.
Therefore, there is a requirement to quantify the effect of
grass ploidy and sward clover content on milk production
at a system level over the entire grazing season.
In 2012, a new research experiment by Teagasc
Moorepark was set up on the farm at Clonakilty
Agricultural College, which has a 84ha dairy unit and
29ha dry-stock (suckler beef and sheep) unit. Some 44ha
of the dairy unit was assigned to the experiment, and the
whole area was reseeded with new roadways, paddocks
and water system installed.
Four separate grazing treatments were sown on the
experimental area: a tetraploid-only sward; a diploid-
only sward; a tetraploid with clover sward; and, a diploid
with clover sward. To create the treatments, four diploids
(Tyrella, Aberchoice, Glenveagh and Drumbo) and four
tetraploid cultivars (Aston Energy, Kintyre, Twymax and
Dunluce) were sown as monocultures with, and without,
clover in five different paddocks around the farm. This
created a separate small farm space of 20 paddocks for
In the clover paddocks, a 50:50 mix of chieftain and
crusader white clover was sown at a rate of 5kg/ha.
Thirty cows were allocated to each treatment in mid-
April, 2013. Treatments were stocked at 2.75 cows/ha and
received 250kg of N fertiliser/ha. The four treatments
(swards) were rotationally grazed from mid-April until
Each small farm space was examined once a week
7. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
to monitor average farm cover. When a surpluse was
identified, it was removed in the form of baled silage.
If a deficit occurred across all treatments, then all
treatments were supplemented with concentrate. If a
deficit occurred in an individual treatment, then cows
were supplemented with forage produced from within
that treatment. Milk yield was measured daily and milk
composition was measured once a week. Pre- and post-
grazing sward height was also measured. Data was
analysed statistically to determine significant differences
The effect of grass ploidy and clover content are
presented in Table 1. Grass ploidy had no effect on milk
production as the cows grazing, both the tetraploid and
diploid treatments, had similar daily and total milk and
milk solids yield. Clover had a significant effect on milk
production. As cows grazing the tetraploid + clover, and
the diploid + clover treatments had greater daily and
total milk and milk solids yield compared to cows grazing
the tetraploid + diploid treatments.
All treatments had a similar pre-grazing sward height
(11cm), however, there was a difference in post-grazing
sward height between treatments as the diploid and
diploid + clover treatments had a higher post-grazing
sward height (4.44cm), compared with the tetraploid
and tetraploid + clover treatments (4.32cm). Both the
tetraploid + clover, and diploid + clover treatments
had greater annual grass DM production (15t DM/ha),
compared with the tetraploid and diploid only treatments
These results are from the first year of the 2013
experiment and they demonstrate that the inclusion of
clover in swards can increase both milk production and
annual grass DM production at higher stocking rates. In
this case, grass ploidy did not affect milk production.
However, these are preliminary results and more work is
needed to evaluate the effect of both grass ploidy and
sward clover content on milk production. The experiment
will continue to run for a number of years to generate
more information on the different treatments.
Daily milk yield (kg/cow) 15.7 15.5 16.6 16.4
Daily milk solids (kg/cow) 1.30 1.25 1.34 1.35
Total milk yield (kg/cow) 3,521 3,468 3,719 3,682
Total milk solids (kg/cow) 292 280 301 303
Table 1: Daily and total milk and milk solids yield from cows grazing tetraploid; diploid;
tetraploid + clover; and, diploid + clover swards from mid-April to mid-November 2013.
8. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
It is now possible to produce ensiled forage bales
without using netwrap. TrioBaleCompressor Film is a new
solution, which improves the preservation of energy and
nutrient content in bales. Silage bales that are wrapped
with TrioBaleCompressor Film have a higher density
and more stable shape than that which was possible
using netwrap. The new technology is based on a unique
production method that can make pre-stretch films
without any loss of performance. Using Trioplast’s unique
new PreTech technology, Trioplast personnel perfected
the solution over three years of work with McHale
development team in Ballinrobe. The film is stretched
tightly around the bales, resulting in bales that are more
compact and have a higher density. The new mantlefilm
produces compact and stable silage bales that are easier
to handle and transport.
Mantlefilm also offers several major benefits to the
farmer during storage and feeding:
Silage stretch film and mantlefilm can be removed in
a single step. Manual handling can be minimised using
an automatic opener;
The waste films can be recycled in the same waste
stream, saving a lot of effort;
The problem of netwrap freezing onto bales in winter
making it difficult to remove is eliminated; and,
Mantlefilm fits tightly to the bale, so mould
penetration is more limited than with netwrap
following physical damage to the bale.
9. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
INDUSTRIAL USES FOR GRASS
Grass growth combines energy from solar radiation with
carbon dioxide from air, and water and minerals from soil,
to produce a complex suite of chemicals that we usually
process through ruminants to produce meat, milk and
wool. However, the need to develop non-renewable fossil
fuel-derived products has stimulated interest in grass as
a natural chemical factory to provide renewable energy,
chemicals and materials.
Fresh grass can be used as an industrial biomass
feedstock. For some applications, however, this provides
challenges in maintaining an adequate supply of
consistent quality herbage. In many cases, this can be
solved by ensiling grass harvested at an appropriate
growth stage, as this provides a relatively large stock
of homogenous feedstock. The grass or silage can be
used directly in processes such as anaerobic digestion,
or they can be mechanically fractionated into solid and
liquid fractions that can be further refined into a range
of marketable products. The separated solid fraction
is rich in fibre, particularly in cellulose, hemicellulose
and lignin, while the liquid fraction contains a mixture
of protein components, organic acids, sugars, minerals
and other substances. The solid and liquid fractions can
be subjected to a series of downstream processes to
recover valuable products and/or to manufacture new
Anaerobic digestion is a natural biochemical process
in which feedstocks such as grass, silage, slurry and
organic wastes are digested by microbes in large air-free
tanks. At present, there are anaerobic digestion facilities
operating commercially on over 6,000 farms in Germany.
The two major outputs of this process are biogas and the
residual digestate. The methane-rich biogas (biogas is
about 55 per cent methane) can be directly combusted
in large combined power and heat engines, which in turn
drive electricity generators that feed into the national
There is a considerable amount of heat generated by
these engines, and the economic viability of the process
is greatly enhanced if this heat can be captured and
used productively. For example, it can be used to provide
central heating to schools, hospitals, office blocks and
apartment blocks, if the anaerobic digestion facility is
located close to a village or town.
Alternatively, the biogas can be upgraded to over 97 per
cent pure methane by removing water vapour, carbon
dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. This biomethane is
virtually identical to natural gas and can be injected
into the natural gas grid or compressed and used as a
transport fuel for appropriately equipped vehicles.
The digestate is the residue remaining after anaerobic
digestion. It is normally spread in a similar manner to
slurry and has a much weaker smell. The nitrogen in
the digestate is usually more available for grass growth
than the nitrogen in slurry, while the potassium and
phosphorous are, at least, as available. As is the case
10. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
with slurry, the judicious use of digestate helps reduce
inorganic fertiliser requirements on farms.
The solid press cake fraction normally needs to have its
water content evaporated. The remaining fibre-rich dry
material has a range of potential uses:
Thermal and acoustic insulation boards – these are
currently being produced and marketed in Switzerland
as an eco-friendly alternative to petro-chemical
Particleboard – researchers in Turkey have developed
a particleboard where grass fibre has replaced some
of the wood chips and shavings that are mechanically
pressed into sheet and bonded together with resin.
Biocomposites – these are hybrid materials made of
a polymer resin, reinforced by natural fibres obtained
from hemp, wood or grass.
They combine the strong mechanical performance of
the fibres with the appearance, bonding and physical
properties of the polymer.
Horticulture – grass fibres can be modified and used
as an alternative to peat in soil-less growth media for
plants. Austrian researches are investigating the use of
this product for rapid turf establishment.
Horticulture – grass fibres can be moulded and
pressed to form containers for marketing and
transporting plants but that would then break down in
the soil and permit the plants roots grow freely.
Paper making – grass fibres have been used as an
alternative to wood or recycled paper fibres for
manufacturing writing paper.
Construction – Irish research has shown that the
fibrous solid fraction of grass silage can be used in
concrete mixtures to prevent shrinkage cracking
during setting and curing. It can achieve this as
effectively as polypropylene fibres, which are a current
Combustion – although the high ash content of dry
grass makes it unsuitable for burning, the higher fibre
content and lower mineral content (much of the
nitrogen, chlorine and potassium are removed with
the liquid fraction) of the solid fraction of separated
grass or silage make it suited to burning. However, this
is a very low value-added use for this product.
Nutritive value – both the digestible energy and
11. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
protein content of this solid fraction is much lower for
cattle and sheep than the parent grass or silage, so it
has little application in animal feeds.
Other uses – a major potential exists to use new
enzyme technologies to biologically or chemically
fractionate the solid fibrous extract of grass or silage
into platform chemicals that would then be converted
into much higher value products.
At present, this
the more immediate
products. For example:
Lactic acid – the
liquid fraction of
can contain 20-40g
lactic acid per kg.
This is a potentially
of what is an
has many uses in
Amino acids – the
liquid fraction of
silages will contain a
wide range of amino
acids derived from
They have the
potential to be used
in the manufacture
of drugs, cosmetics
and food additives.
The Department of
Agriculture, Food and
the Marine funded a
the Teagasc Animal
Centre at Grange;
Research Institute at University College Cork; and, the
Questor Centre at Queens University, Belfast. The
focus of this research was to investigate the potential
of different grass species and red clover as biomass
feedstocks; their potential to provide fibre for industrial
applications, and to evaluate these fibres in different
applications; and, the optimisation of anaerobic digestion
technology for grass and grass silage feedstocks.
12. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
ISTHERE POTENTIAL FOR
LUCERNE IN IRELAND?
Senior Lecturer in Agronomy
at Harper Adams University
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the
Lucerne legume crop (within an estimated cropping area
of 22,000ha), which fixes nitrogen (N), and is tolerant
to drought, heat and some salinity, and offers a source
of protein in regions where cropping choice is limited by
one of these factors.
As the cost of bought-in protein has risen and its
benefits to ruminant digestion and productivity have
been realised, however, there remains a perception that it
is difficult to establish and grow. The crop is undeniably
slow to establish and does require careful management,
but, if basic agronomic guidelines are followed, there is
nothing complex about it.
The crop thrives on free-draining soils with a pH
preferably above 6.5, as calcium is required for
nodulation and effective N fixation so site selection
is important. It can be grown as a monoculture or in
mixtures with suitably slow-growing grass species,
such as fescue, which won’t outcompete the Lucerne
seedlings. Sowing with grass helps to reduce the weed
burden but a similar benefit can be achieved by sowing
with a cover crop such as spring barley at a reduced
seed rate, which is then harvested as wholecrop silage.
Importance of dormancy in Ireland
The critical factor in choosing varieties suited to Irish
conditions, is dormancy because this will determine the
cold tolerance of the crop. The ’Flemish’ variety types
with dormancy ratings of 2-6 are best suited to these
conditions. Verticillium wilt-resistance is also a desirable
characteristic as there is no fungicidal control of the
disease. The seed is inoculated with Rhizobia meliloti to
promote rapid root nodulation and the use of fumigated
seed is also important to prevent eelworm problems.
In terms of sowing date, it is most commonly drilled
from late April. DairyCo research work at Harper
Adams University and at other sites, suggests that
late summer sowing is generally less successful due
to weed infestation. For pure Lucerne stands, the aim
is to achieve plant populations of 500-800 plants/
, below which stems become too thick and woody,
decreasing palatability and nutritional value. This usually
equates to around 20-25kg/ha of seed. The seed is
small (similar to white clover) and therefore should be
sown no more than 1cm deep on rows 10-12cm apart.
As with grass seeds, rolling before and after sowing will
be beneficial to ensure good seed to soil contact and
rapid establishment. Although Lucerne requires no N
once established, it can be beneficial to apply 25kgN per
ha at sowing. Phosphate and potash requirements are
higher than for grass. An ADAS Index 2 is required for P
13. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
and K and it is suggested that recommendations for red
clover are followed. Regular soil testing is also required to
maintain pH at required levels.
Good establishment is the key to weed control, as
the range of approved pesticides is limited. A limited
number of approved residual herbicides for broadleaved
weed control can be applied to established crops over
the winter and there is also authorisation for some
graminicides to control grass weeds. Diquat can also
be used during the dormant period. Unlike grass,
Lucerne crops cannot be renovated by over-seeding
in subsequent years as after 12 months, the plants
exhibit autotoxicity, exuding chemicals, which inhibit the
germination of new Lucerne seedlings.
Lucerne can be harvested as hay and in New Zealand
is successfully rotationally grazed but in wetter Irish
conditions grazing is likely to damage the crowns and
reduce persistence. Bloat, although manageable can
also be an issue when the crop is grazed. While there
is some production of dried, pelleted crop in Essex, the
predominant use in Britain and Ireland is for silage.
Pivotal crop-cutting times
In the year of establishment, a light cut may be taken in
mid-August but in subsequent years the crop will provide
4-5 cuts per year. Lucerne should be cut at around the
bud/first flower stage as this provides the ideal balance
between yield and protein levels. Two or three further
cuts can then be taken at six-week intervals before it is
left to grow into the autumn and replenish resources to
the deep taproot.
Commercial experience with the crop at Harper Adams
University has shown that rubber roller-type conditioners
are preferable to tine conditioners when cutting to avoid
too much damage to the leaf. It is also important to
maintain a cutting height of around 7cm to protect the
crown from damage.
The high protein and low sugar content can make it
difficult to ensile, which is another reason for growing
it with a companion grass which will increase soluble
sugar levels. After cutting, the crop needs wilting to a
minimum DM of at least 30 per cent for clamp silage and
40-50 per cent for baled silage. However, it is important
not to leave it too long as the fragile leaves, which
contain about 70 per cent of the protein, can easily
shatter. It is also important to use an approved additive
when ensiling Lucerne to encourage rapid fermentation.
In summary, a well-established Lucerne crop can offer
4-8 years persistency of forage that is highly digestible
and rich in minerals with protein levels of 18-22 per cent
and yields of up to 12t/ha of DM per year with a reduced
reliance on purchased fertiliser.
14. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
EARLY SEASON DOSING STRATEGY
ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTHY STOCK
Michael A. O’GRADY,
Osmonds Animal Health
When making plans for an effective dosing strategy for
2014 you should consider:
How and when your winter dosing programme was
carried out (products used, timings, and parasitic
How your animals are looking – are they licking or
scratching for lice, scouring or showing symptoms of
ill-thrift, as a sign of worm or fluke infestations?
It may be necessary to carry out faecal analysis to
check the worm or fluke burden.
There may be an overhang of worms, lice, rumen or liver
fluke in your stock depending on the product you used
last and the intervals between doses at housing.
Many insecticides do not kill louse eggs, so a second
treatment may have been carried out approximately
four to five weeks (product depending) after the initial
treatment at housing.
Gut/lungworms can survive until spring either as an over-
wintered larva on pasture or within infected animals. If
autumn dosing was not carried out effectively, livestock
can harbour thousands of these Type II Oestertagia
larvae. All cattle and dairy cows not fluke dosed (within
eight weeks of housing) should be dosed prior to
turnout, as high levels of fluke can depress milk yield and
live weight gain by up to 10-20 per cent.
The exceptionally wet year delayed the turnout of stock.
Increased numbers of young stock can lead to a huge
build-up of infectious agents in calving sheds. Vigilance
is essential during the critical three-week period around
calving to minimise any infections to the cow or her calf.
Importance of hygiene
Maintain clean, dry, draught-free calving pens with
adequate bedding to minimise a build-up of infection.
Clean and power wash calving pens between calvings
where possible and use lime or disinfectant to limit
infection. Continue dipping navals in strong iodine
immediately after birth and for a couple of days, if
necessary, to help prevent any further infection.
These simple management practices can be overlooked
when busy and the calf is at its highest risk of infections.
The calf should receive 3-4L of its mother’s colostrum in
the first 2-4 hours after calving. This will minimise the risk
of scour and other infections.
Many cases of scour initially arise due to irregular
feeding, overfeeding or some other upset in the feeding
routine. These nutritional scours, unless corrected,
may become infections (e.g. viruses, bacteria or
cryptosporidia can be picked up from the environment).
When calves are dehydrated, electrolytes in sufficient
quantity must be given. A 50kg calf, which has lost 10
per cent of its body weight will require 5L of replacement
A wet and mild winter
Last winter provided ideal conditions for egg, snail and
metacercariae survival and, as a result, there will be a
higher level of infection at grass when animals are turned
out. Younger stock, especially calves, are at greatest risk.
Gastro intestinal (GIT) worms and lungworms can result
in a severe loss of body condition (up to 10 per cent of
bodyweight in growing cattle) so get on top of parasite
problems as early as possible.
Losses in a severe outbreak of parasitic gastroenteritis
(PGE) in young cattle could reach €150 per head.
Similar losses can be expected with a severe outbreak
15. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
of lungworm. Secondary bacterial pneumonia can follow
lung damage, necessitating antibiotic therapy.
The effect of worms on cows is often unnoticed, leading
to poor milk production, reduced fertility and more feed
required to maintain condition. The milk-yield response
alone to anthelmintic treatment in recent studies was
observed to be around 1kg/cow per day.
Lungworm disease can also occur in adult cattle where
there has been little exposure of younger animals to the
parasite and where worm control has been ineffective. In
dairy herds, infection can reduce milk yields significantly,
with possible deaths. Lost milk production could reach
€2 to €4 per head per day, with recovery taking 10-20
days after treatment.
Cattle of all ages can become infected with liver fluke
and this can result in reduced weight gains of between
0.5-1.6kg per week. Studies have shown that in Belgian
Blue double-muscled growing and fattening cattle this
can be as high as 2.15kg per week.
Even with moderate infections, milk yields can fall by
10-15 per cent. Milk quality is also affected with a reduced
butterfat. Infections can result in an extra 0.5 services per
conception and the calving interval can increase by up to
20 days. Furthermore, liver fluke could predispose cows
to acetonaemia (‘fatty liver’) and hypocalcaemia (milk
Dosing Strategies for 2014
For all stock, if not dosed with a product that treats
inhibited larvae of Type II Ostertagia, give them such a
dose now. For dairy and other livestock, you can dose
with a quality product like Flexiben SC (60 hours milk
withdrawal). For all non-dairy stock, you can dose with
products such as Lineout or Fortemec Pour-on. For dairy
cows, you may apply products such as Eprinex with zero
milk withdrawal. These timely treatments will greatly
reduce the number of infected larvae on pasture and
help minimise possible setbacks that parasites can cause.
For all cattle and dairy cows, if not dosed since housing
or within eight weeks of housing with a flukacide and
have had no dose since, we would recommend that they
get a further dose to eliminate any fluke ingested prior
to housing. Abattoirs reported high levels of liver fluke
in the livers of adult stock last autumn. For dairy cows,
we recommend that you use quality products such as
Flexiben SC (with 60 hours milk withdrawal) or Zanil
(with 72 hours milk withdrawal). For all other livestock,
dose with an approved product such as Flexiben SC,
Zanil, and Fasifree, Orafluke or injectable solutions
Flukiver or Trodax/Mectaject Plus or Pharmazan C as a
Additional management practices
Boluses are an effective method of long-acting, trace
element control and can help complement grass. Grass
supplies as little as 50 per cent of the animals trace
elements (lush spring grass goes through the animals
digestive system very quickly and thus there isn’t enough
time to absorb the trace elements). Conduct regular
weighing of stock to assess if your parasite control
programmes is working and your animals are achieving
the target live weight gain.
16. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
LAMENESS IN DAIRY CATTLE
By this time of the year, cows have been housed for
several months and any deficiencies in the shed are
coming through in the cow’s feet. Around calving, the
cow’s diet is changing from silage to high levels of meal
feeding. Some cows are out along wet roads and farmers
are seeing problems on these surfaces.
Lame animals are very likely to get other problems
such as mastitis, infertility, low yields and poor physical
condition. Among the most common causes of lameness
are rough roadways, yards or passages, bad cubicles
forcing cows to stand too long, over feeding with meal
(especially abruptly after calving), overcrowding or
poorly ventilated housing, dirty passageways, rough or
stressful treatment etc. These problems should be dealt
Research findings show that cows housed in good space
sharing cubicles with mats or soft bedding, lay down for
up to 10 hours in every 24, while those in small unbedded
cubicles lay down for only half this time and have four
times more lameness. These latter cows also have much
higher incidences of infertility and mastitis. There should
be at least one cubicle for every cow in the shed, and
preferably 1.1 cubicles per cow; this has been shown to
significantly reduce lameness, especially among the first-
calvers and cows that are already struggling in the shed.
Paring and foot bathing
Cows’ hooves should be routinely pared, preferably by
qualified hoof parers such as in the Farm Relief Service.
Cows that are near calving should not go into the crate
because they can get distressed during paring. Other
cows would benefit from getting their feet in shape for
the year ahead. A lot of problems occur around calving
time, such as long toes, sole ulcers, white line and double
soles. Watching a cow walk, her back should be straight
and level as she proceeds; cows humping their back
as they walk are showing symptoms of lameness even
before they start to limp.
Foot bathing with formalin or copper sulphate
(bluestone) is helpful. However, bathing lame cows
only exacerbates the pain for the cow, hardening the
tissues around the injury so it becomes harder for her to
walk. Foot bathing is especially useful if the cows feet
are in wet conditions, for instance in dirty sheds, often
associated with bad ventilation, or with wet fields or
In recent years, lameness caused, by a virus known
as Mortellaro, has become common. This needs rapid
attention if it is to be kept out of the herd. It is a nasty
disease because it spreads quickly, especially in indoor
herds, and it causes sudden severe lameness, yet farmers
are slow to recognise it in their cows. Treatment with
antibiotic-based sprays or footbaths are needed to treat
this disease. Talk to your hoof parer, vet or Teagasc.
Farmers need to pay special attention to the following:
One cubicle for each cow is desirable to allow animals
Footbathing outside the milking parlour.
Lots of work needed on this hoof.
17. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
to lie down as much as they wish.
Cubicles should be of adequate size for the animals
housed. Cubicles should be at least 2.4m (8ft) long
if facing wall and 2.1m (7ft) if head-to-head. These
dimensions are from the Department of Agriculture,
Fishing and the Marine farm building specifications
and they are good measurements. The width should
be 1.15m (3ft 9in) wide if modern space-sharing design
and more with the old Newton-Rigg type.
For very large cows, an extra 6in should be added to the
length with an adjustable shoulder rail to avoid soiling
Soft bedding or mats encourage cows to lie down
and prevents leg injuries. Straw is ideal but does not
suit some slurry systems. Cubicle passages should
be scraped daily and beds should be cleaned off and
dusted with lime, twice daily. Rubber mats on cubicles
are good; rubber mats on slats in cubicle sheds
are bad, because they actually increase lameness,
research has shown. Presumably cows spend more
time on the slats and less in the cubicles when the
slats have mats, putting more pressure on the feet.
If possible, heifers should be trained to lie in cubicles
before entering the main herd, as first calved heifers
are a very vulnerable to lameness. If these animals
(or any others) are noticed standing too much they
should receive special attention or even be removed
to separate housing. Passageways, yards and
roadways should be kept well surfaced to avoid hoof
damage and animals should be treated gently.
Sharp bends and slippery surfaces should be avoided.
Adequate feed space is also important. Cows should
have plenty of space to move around in the shed and
good access to the cubicles and the feed barriers,
preferably several access points rather than one long
Cubicle houses should be well ventilated, without
Introducing concentrates gradually after calving
and feeding a suitable diet also play a huge role in
preventing lameness. Concentrates high in starch,
particularly wheat and barley, increase the risk of
lameness; feed little and often (diet wagon or three
times a day if at high levels) and take even more care
to build up slowly.
Regular foot care carried out by the Farm Relief
Service or equivalent will also be a great help in
Cows that will not lie in cubicles should be removed to
a straw-bedded house.
problems in a
young dairy animal,
this heifer has been
limping for a while.
Mortellaro along the
hairline; a weeping
sore with long hair and
a bad smell, this cow
would be very lame.
18. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN FERTILISER
General Manager, Advanced Fertilizers Ltd.
After years of decline, fertiliser usage in Ireland is rising
and new, efficient nitrogen (N) products have arrived
in Ireland to capture post-quota growth opportunities.
Usage of all fertilisers rose in 2013 compared with the
Fertiliser sales are now 12 per cent above 2007 levels
and looked to have turned the corner. Agronomists
and advisers put this down to greater awareness of soil
nutrient levels and more focus on farming for production
rather than for compliance with, for example, REPS
schemes. There is still a long way to go as Teagasc
reported that only nine per cent of soil samples are in
Index 3-4 for phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) and
with pH above 6.2. It is expected that usage of fertilisers
will continue to grow as farmers gear up for increased
output in the post-quota era.
The most recent developments have been the
widespread adoption of soil P and K indices and the
focus on managing soil nutrient status.
Teagasc and the Fertilizer Association of Ireland
launched the nutrient management wheel in 2013 and
followed this up with the online version in 2014. Both of
these make it much easier than ever before for farmers
to plan their fertiliser programmes, taking into account
amounts of nutrients being supplied by slurry and
New developments in chemical fertilisers occurred this
year with the introduction of Koch Advanced Nitrogen to
the Irish market by Advanced Fertilizers Ltd. Before this,
Irish farmers had to choose between urea and calcium
ammonium nitrate (CAN) for straight N.
While being cheaper, a proportion of urea can be lost by
volatilisation into ammonia gas and often unpredictably.
CAN is more reliable, but is more expensive and only
contains 27 per cent N so spreading time and haulage
reduce its attractiveness.
Koch Advanced Nitrogen provides the high and
dependable performance of CAN plus advantages
in faster application, easier handling and more cost-
effectiveness that CAN cannot provide.
Koch Advanced Nitrogen contains Agrotain N nitrogen
stabiliser to remove volatilisation concerns from this
urea-based fertiliser. It can be spread anytime during the
crop season without fear of volatilisation losses, it is 46
per cent N compared to only 27 per cent in CAN and
works out to higher profit potential per ha than CAN. It
is suitable for both grassland and tillage with the option
of added sulphur. Performance comparison of N fertiliser
19. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
types is the focus of research at both Johnstown Castle
and Hillsborough. The researchers are seeking a high-
performance, low-emission N fertiliser to simultaneously
enable increased economic output and reduced
For example, Food Harvest 2020 calls for a 50 per cent
increase in dairy output from the agricultural sector. But,
of Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 30 per cent
comes from agriculture, the highest proportion in Europe
and we have a target of double-digit reductions to meet
EU environmental mandates.
Research work from Hillsborough (DEFRA, 2006)
suggests that Calcium Ammonium Nitrate is the highest
emitter of nitrous oxide gas (a potent GHG) among
nitrogen fertilisers. Subsequent trial work indicates that
a product such as Koch Advanced Nitrogen gives similar
performance to CAN while having substantially lower
greenhouse gas emission.
The research work continues and will be watched carefully
by Irish farmers who face the dual pressures of output
increase and emission reduction. The challenge is for new
N products to achieve both.
20. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
FERTILISINGTHE GRASS SILAGE CROP
Mark Plunkett, Stan Lalor David Wall,
Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Wexford
Grass silage has a large nutrient demand and adequate
nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)
is essential for maximising grass yield and producing
sufficient winter feed. Soil pH - Maintain soil pH at 6.3
to 6.5 for optimum grass production. Leave a minimum
of three months between lime applications and closing
for grass silage. Maintaining an optimum soil pH through
regular lime application will help to maximise the
availability of N, P and K in the soil.
Nitrogen (N) is the key driver of yield but too much
or too little N will have a large impact on grass dry
matter (DM) production and silage quality. Grass swards
with high levels of perennial rye grass will use N more
efficiently than older swards.
Recently reseeded swards (0-3 years) will have 25 per
cent higher N demand, especially when reseeded after a
tillage rotation. A crop of grass silage (5t/ha of DM) will
require 125kg N/ha (100 units/ac). A crop of grass silage
will take up, on average, 2.5kg/ha/day of N (2units/day),
therefore, apply N at least 50 days before cutting to
ensure full N utilisation.
P and K are essential to maximise grass yields therefore
adequate supply of these nutrients in the soil is critical.
Assess the most recent (3 to 5 years) soil test reports
to determine the P and K requirements (in organic
manure and fertiliser) for silage fields. A crop of grass
silage will remove approx. 4kg P and 25kg K /tonne of
grass DM. Organic manures are an effective source of
N, P and K and can provide a large proportion of crop P
and K requirements at relatively low cost. Table 1 shows
the available N, P and K content for a range of organic
Cattle slurry is the most common manure applied to
silage fields and can vary in nutrient content depending
on its DM. Diluting cattle slurry with water is beneficial
for ease of agitation and can help to improve the N
availability in the slurry, however, it will also dilute the P
and K content of the slurry.
Table 1 shows the N, P and K values for a normal and
dilute cattle slurries at different DM per cent. It is
important to take account of DM content to reduce the
risk of under fertilising crops. The slurry hydrometer can
be used to assess the DM per cent of slurry helping you
to predict the nutrient content more accurately.
For example 3,000 gallons of good quality cattle slurry
(7 per cent DM) will supply sufficient P and K levels to
grow a crop of grass silage.
Table 2 shows the recommended rates of N, P and K at
different soil P K indexes (1 to 4) required for 5t/ha
grass DM (10t fresh grass/ac).
Timing of N,P and K application
Apply crop N, P and K requirements when closing fields
in late March/early April. Where slurry is applied, delay
the top-up fertiliser, applications for one week. In wetter
soil conditions fertiliser N can be split 50:50 for example
50 per cent in late March / early April and the remainder
two weeks later to reduce the risk of N losses.
Table 1: Available N, P and K values for a range of organic manures (units/1,000 gallons)
Manure type N P K
Cattle slurry (7 per cent DM) 6 5 30
Dilute Cattle Slurry (3.5 per cent DM) 5 3 15
Pig slurry 19 7 20
FYM 3 2.4 12
SMC 3 3 16
Cattle slurry 8 per cent DM; Pig slurry 4 per cent DM
21. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
Building Soil P and K in silage fields
Apply additional P and K (soil build-up rates) to index
1 and 2 soils after first-cut silage in late summer. For
example, 16 per cent P or 50 per cent K or 0-7-30 are
very suitable fertilisers for building soil P and K levels to
the target index 3 level over a number of years.
Sulphurs deficiency is most on light sandy / free draining
soils with low soil organic matter. Grass silage crops have
a requirement of 20kg S/ha per cut. The application of S
to soils where it is required will improve grass DM yields
and quality as it helps to maintain an optimum N:S ratio
and N to be used more efficiency. Apply S with main N
split as N +S (e.g. CAN +S / Urea +S).
Table 3: Second and subsequent cuts grass silage N, P and K requirements.
1 100 (80) 30 (24) 70 (56)
2 100 (80) 20 (16) 50 (40)
3 100 (80) 10 (8) 35 (28)
4 100 (80) 0 0
*Where P and K build has been already applied to the previous crop of grass silage therefore
apply P and K offtake based on yields for second-cut silage crops as shown for Index 3 advice.
Table 2: First-cut Grass Silage N, P and K requirements (5t/ha DM) and suggested fertiliser programmes.
Soil Index N kg/ha (units/ac)
Fertiliser options 3
No slurry Cattle slurry 3,000gal/ac
125 (100) 40 (32) 175 (140)
3.5 bags/ac 0-7-30
4 bags/ac CAN
125 (100) 30 (24) 155 (120)
3 bags/ac 0-7-30
4 bags/ac CAN
3 125 (100) 20 (16) 125 (100)
5 bags/ac 15-3-20
1 bags/ac CAN
3 bags/ac CAN
125 (100) 0 0 4 bags/ac CAN 4 bags/ac CAN
Index one and two soils apply P and K balance advice to build soil P and K levels to after grass for example as 24-2.5-10 / 0-7-30.
Index four soils omit P for two/three years and retest, Index 4 K omit for one year and revert to index 3 advice thereafter until next soil test.
Urea can replace CAN as main N source. Light rain (up to 10 mm) before or after application will reduce N losses from urea.
22. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
OPTIMISING FIRST CUT SILAGE CROPS
Global Forage Product Manager, Volac
As most farmers are turning their thoughts to the new
season ahead it is a good time to plan for the grass silage
to be produced this year. The nutritional quality of your
silage is based on that of the starting crop, not just the
plant itself but also whatever else might be on it.
So, if you are applying slurry, time is of the essence. With
increasing grass growth, there is higher chance of leaf
contamination, so using a method that applies slurry to
the soil rather than onto the plant helps minimise risk.
Remember that slurry contains some nasty bacteria that
will increase the risk of a poor fermentation if they get
into the clamp. If applied to the leaves and followed by
dry weather, the slurry will not be diluted, and the leaves
may still be contaminated.
Application of bagged fertiliser should take account
of any soil and slurry nutrients already present. It is
particularly important not to over-apply nitrogen (N) as
an excess can lead to high nitrates at ensiling, increasing
the risk of a poor fermentation. Under normal conditions
it is assumed N will be taken up at a rate of 2.5kg/ha/day,
but extremes of weather will reduce this significantly.
The worst situation is when uptake has been restricted
and rain comes just before silaging as N will be taken up
rapidly, leading to a build up of nitrate in the plant as it
cannot convert it into protein fast enough. As sugars are
also used in protein formation, there will be less available
for fermentation and the higher protein concentration
will increase the buffering capacity of the grass, making
it even more difficult to ensile.
Ensiling high nitrate grass can also lead to the formation
of poisonous silo gas in the early stages of ensiling. If
high nitrates are suspected, get the grass analysed. If
the nitrate-N is much above 0.1 per cent DM wait a day
or two. Wilting and/or the use of a silage additive will
help minimise the risk of a poor fermentation from either
slurry contamination or high nitrates.
Empty silage clamps, due to a longer winter feeding
period, tend to push farmers towards bulk rather than
quality. Not only will quality fall dramatically, but the
grass tends to ‘lodge’ causing dramatic reduction in
digestibility. You would be better silaging at the intended
time, plan for a decent second cut and consider making
up the shortfall with an alternative crop, like wholecrop
cereals. Aim to wilt to about 30 per cent DM within 24
hours as usual but remember that if excellent conditions
occur it can become over-dry within this period so
adjust wilting period to target this recommended DM.
If too dry, you will end up with higher field losses and
silage will be more difficult to compact in the clamp,
increasing the risk of aerobic spoilage at feedout. If this
occurs, chopping shorter, to around 1.5- 2cm, will help
with compaction. It also might be worth direct cutting
the last field to provide some extra weight and a better
seal on top. Grass starts to deteriorate as soon as it is cut
so the faster it wilts the better. A mower-conditioner can
23. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
increase the rate of moisture loss by up to 40 per cent as
it crushes the stems and damages the waxy protective
outer layer (cuticle). But don’t use a conditioner in wet
conditions as rain can be absorbed into the plant via
these damaged areas. Most of the initial water loss is
from the leaves via the stomata, holes on the under
surface which only remain open for up to two hours after
cutting. Drying is fastest if you expose the maximum
surface area of the plants to the sun and wind, so spread
it wide across the field and ted it. When swathing, make
sure the rake is set properly to avoid picking up soil,
another source of silage spoilage microorganisms.
Silage fermentation is an anaerobic process, which
means it takes place in the absence of air and a lot
of clamp management is aimed at keeping air out.
This allows fermentation to get going faster, reducing
fermentation losses and reducing undesirable microbial
activity. It also decreases the risk of aerobic spoilage at
feedout as the yeasts responsible for initiating aerobic
spoilage can increase at this stage, giving them a head
start at opening. It doesn’t matter whether the crop
going in is wet or dry, the same rules apply. Line the
clamp walls with sheeting, leaving plenty of excess for
overlapping on top, then get the grass in quickly, filling
the clamp in thin layers (max. 15cm) with plenty of
compaction. Unless you have very heavy machinery, it is
best to use single tyres as that maximises the pressure
per unit area. If you are ensiling a wet crop, don’t over-
roll or it will end up mushy and the cows won’t like it. It
is essential you have enough machinery on the clamp to
keep up with the loads coming in.
Once it is all in, give it a final roll then seal it well with
plenty of weight on top. Using one of the new ‘cling film’
type sheets as the inner layer is particularly effective.
Additives should only ever be considered as an aid to
making silage; they will not make up for poor quality
crops or poor clamp management. Used properly they
can bring about cost-effective benefits in terms of
improved fermentation, increased animal performance
and reduced dry matter losses. Choose one designed to
tackle the issue you are facing, be it fermentation and/or
aerobic spoilage but remember it is animal performance
that ultimately brings the biggest payback. Look for a
product that has independent research and a proven
track record showing benefits in milk, meat production
and reducing fermentation losses.
24. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
Liam de PAOR
Based in Kilconnell, East Galway, Beckett Agri is one
of Ireland’s largest silage contractors. Customers can
choose between self-propelled silage harvesters, the
forage wagon system or get their grass baled and
wrapped. Their 2013 silage harvesting operations can
be viewed online and they also have a prominent social
media presence on Facebook.
This family business was founded by William Beckett,
who continues to play an active role and also keeps a
suckler herd of pedigree Charolais cattle on his own
farm. At present, his son Martin is managing operations
and the area they cover extends from Moycullen in west
Galway to south Roscommon.
They can operate three separate silage outfits at any one
time with a fleet of 17 tractors available. These include
12 John Deere, two Claas, two Fendt and a Merlo. The
silage machinery includes four Strautmann wagons, one
Claas harvester, numerous mowers, one Volvo and two
Komatsu loaders, along with two McHale Fusion 3 Plus
integrated baler wrappers.
According to Martin their silage harvesting business is
roughly 20 per cent baled silage, 40 per cent done with
a forage wagon and the rest with the self-propelled
harvester. As regards baled silage, Beckett Agri’s
customers include cattle, sheep and dairy farmers.
However, unlike many other areas where only four wraps
are used, their customers ask for six wraps to be applied.
This is a big advantage particularly with higher dry
matter (DM) silage as it minimises mould problems
and improves forage quality. With higher DM silage the
number of bales are greatly reduced, so applying two
extra wraps does not actually cost any more per tonne
of silage. However, technology continues to improve
and netwrap, which took over from baler twine, is set to
be replaced with film. This will not only improve forage
quality but will further reduce the cost of making baled
silage. According to Sean O’Connor, General Manager
Pictured at a recent
technical briefing for Silotite
distributors on the farm of
Agri contactorsWilliam and
Martin Beckett, Co. Galway:
William Beckett, Chloe
Layton and Kate Collett from
Minister Films; and Sean
O’Connor, General Manager
25. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
at Silotite (Ireland), the new wrapping Film Film (FF)
System has been in development for over six years.
“We have worked closely with the baler manufacturers to
refine the Baletite product for the newly launched Fusion
3 Plus. Our technical personnel have gone as far afield as
New Zealand to carry out development work in addition
to working with farmers in Europe, UK and Ireland.
John Joe Cummins from McHales says they have been
working on the FF System for four years. Around 100
of the new McHale Fusion 3 Plus machinery will be
working around Ireland for 2014. Last season, 20 of their
machines wrapped over 100,000 bales in Galway and
Mayo with this new system.
FF System explained
The FF System is a new, dual film technology that
conserves superior quality silage through greater bale
density and an enhanced oxygen barrier. This innovative
baling and wrapping practice involves the use of Baletite,
a wide polythene film, alongside the next generation of
The Baletite film replaces the traditional netwrap used
to bind crops into a bale. In addition to improved silage
quality, the FF System minimises forage waste and
the two films used do not have to be segregated for
recycling as is the case with netwrap, thereby saving
time and money.
Agri-contractors agree that there has been a huge
improvement in silage quality. Bales are tighter and
therefore smaller, more airtight and better protected for
handling and storage. Martin Beckett says that they have
wrapped over 10,000 bales using the FF System over
the last two years.
According to Sean, using Baletite, one can get an extra
two bales wrapped from a roll of Silotite balewrap so
that is a significant cost saving. In addition there is the
improved feed quality because the bale is protected by
more film and one is unlikely to see any mouldy silage.
These finding have also been confirmed by independent
trials. For example, the ILVO (Instituut voor Landbouw
– en Visserljonderzoek [Institute for Research in
Agriculture in Belgium]) found that the FF bales were
on average 2cm smaller in circumference than traditional
netwrapped bales in addition to being 10 per cent denser.
Bill Beckett has also noticed the improved silage quality
from the bales wrapped using the FF System and the
better liveweight gain from his own cattle. Milk producers
in Galway and Mayo have also noticed the improved
forage quality and improved performance from their
herds. Senan Glynn is a milk supplier to Aurivo Coop and
farms near Dunmore in North Galway. He has a herd of
130 pedigree Holstein cows and used to make 100ac of
pit silage and some bales from surplus grass. However,
two years ago, Sean changed over completely to baled
silage and makes around 2,000 bales each year.
He finds the preservation and quality much better with
the FF System and more cost-effective than pit silage.
With clamp silage he was having problems with high DM
silage and was paying by the acre for harvesting. Now,
he has only about eight-high DM bales per acre so it’s
less expensive to make and to transport. Sean uses a
Keenan mixer wagon to feed the silage to his cows and
this is loaded with a McHale bale splitter which speeds
“My contractor is Tommy Costello who has had a McHale
Fusion 3 Plus since 2011 and has wrapped 30,000 bales
with this system. Not too far away in Kilmaine, Co. Mayo
another dairy farmer is making around 2,000 bales of
silage each year using the FF System, so I would highly
recommend using it,” Sean says.
26. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
CHOICE OF SILAGEADDITIVE
CAN IMPROVE FERTILITY
Dr Dave Davies,
Silage inoculants are usually seen as a way to increase
milk from forage. Following a statistical study, Genus
ABS Powerstart was found to also have an impact on
The 2012 study showed that farmers, who treated their
silage with Genus ABS Powerstart, on average, achieved
a 10-day reduction in the calving to conception interval.
Now, an independent review has been published that
explains the effects a silage inoculant can have on cows
getting back in calf.
When the trial, involving over 100 herds and 25,000
cows, showed the link between silage inoculant and
fertility the immediate question was why? How can
silage production have such an effect on reproduction?
The answer lies in the way the silage is fermented and
how the forage is utilised in the rumen.
Powerstart contains just one strain of bacteria, a unique
strain of the homofermentative bacterium Lactobacillus
plantarum, which was selected after extensive
independent evaluation of lactic acid bacteria carried
out at Aberystwyth by IGER (Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research) in the mid-1990s.
Unlike most strains of Lactobacillus, L. plantarum Aber
F1 is a fructan degrading strain, which means it is able to
make better use of all the sugars available in grass, which
results in a more rapid fermentation, with two significant
consequences for the nutritional value of the silage.
The first is that, by making use of all the sugars in
grass, less of the available sugar is used during the
fermentation, which means that there is more sugar in
the resultant silage, which is then available to the cow.
The second is that accelerating the rate of fermentation
more effectively preserves the protein in the grass,
with a higher proportion of true protein and fewer free
amino acids, something that will not show up on a silage
The impact of faster fermentation and better nutrient
retention is really important when the silage is digested
in the rumen. He explains that the high proportion of
true protein in Powerstart-treated silage, combined
27. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
with the higher sugar levels, means the rumen digests
the forage more efficiently. A typical silage with more
free amino acids and ammonia combined with less
available sugar, can result in an imbalance in the rumen
fermentation, with too much nitrogen released and a
shortage of rumen available energy.
The consequence is a large proportion of protein is lost
as rumen ammonia, which is excreted as urea into the
blood and milk. In silage fermented with L plantarum
Aber F1, the improved balance of sugars and true protein
results in more effective rumen fermentation, less surplus
ammonia and, consequently, lower urea levels. Lower
urea levels are the key to why fertility improves with
If the rumen is producing a lot of ammonia it has to be
removed, which uses up energy. Converting ammonia
into urea wastes energy, which reduces the energy
available for milk production.
If less energy is available from the diet, the consequence
in early lactation is that cows will be in extended
negative energy balance and will lose more condition
over a longer period of time, which is well understood to
have a negative effect on fertility.
Higher blood urea levels reduce fertility
Higher blood urea levels are also a contributor to low
fertility in dairy cows. His review of the literature drew on
extensive research from leading dairy countries around
High blood urea reduces fertility in three ways. Firstly,
cows with high urea levels have longer intervals between
heat periods, which mean you have fewer opportunities
to breed cows. Secondly, high urea and ammonia levels
have been shown to hamper the development of eggs in
the ovary, leading to poorer quality eggs, which reduces
the chance of fertilisation. Finally, high blood urea
levels alter the environment in the uterus and reduce
progesterone levels, which means cows are less able to
maintain a pregnancy.
By more closely providing the rumen with what it needs,
in the correct balance to allow an effective fermentation,
silage fermented using L. plantarum Aber F1 has a direct
benefit in reducing the reproductive problems associated
with high blood urea. It also drastically reduces the
energy required to deal with waste urea, leaving more
energy for the cow, for production and to reduce
negative energy balance.
28. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
TECHNOLOGY HELPS FARMERS
‘Nature enhanced’ is not an original phrase, it does,
however, explain the Dairymaster approach to herd and
animal health. In fact, it sums up much of the company’s
approach to every aspect of their integration of
technology and dairying.
In recent scientific trials, the Dairymaster cluster yielded
up to 5 per cent more than another commercially
available cluster. Dairymaster maximises milk output
through the unique combination of the claw, liner and
This system milks each cow up to one minute faster and
is designed similar to a calf suckling its mother.
Ger Waters runs a 250ac dairy farm near Ballytore, in Co
Kildare. He milks 175 cows in his 20-unit, fully-automated
parlour. With an SCC of 70,000 and TBC between 5,000-
6,000, since installing a Dairymaster parlour, he has been
able get his cell count under control.
Ray Murphy runs a farms in Kilbride, Co. Wicklow. “Since
changing to the Dairymaster parlour and pulsation
system, I have seen a dramatic decline in mastitis. My
SCC has come down from an average of 300,000 to
90,000. Milk quality has never been better with an
average TBC gone from 12,000 to 6,000. The pulsation
system of the new parlour has helped issues on farm.”
Accurate heat detection is central to achieving
optimal calving intervals, optimal yields, good herd
reproductive performance and reducing the cost of
29. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
replacements. Some of the most advanced technology
used in Dairymaster’s equipment is contained in their
Moo Monitor. This is fitted on the neck of the cow and
provides real-time information about the health and
fertility status of each cow.
The majority of heats occur between 8pm and 6am,
when most farmers are asleep. The Moo Monitor gathers
data on a 24-hour basis and downloads this to a base
station at intervals set by the operator. The farmer
can view the information on an hourly basis, allowing
insemination of the cows at the optimum time.
The Moo Monitor intelligent software fully integrates
with the farm messenger, which can alert the farmer
via a text message with a list of cows in heat so that,
at milking time, the parlour sound system will alert the
operator. The auto-drafting system can be set up to draft
active cows to a separate holding pen once milking has
been completed. Dairymaster treats every cow within a
herd as an individual, dealing with their specific needs.
The organisation pioneered the use of radio-frequency
identification (RFID) chip ear tags in dairy equipment
in 1993. This allowed customers to increase efficiency
and improve security on farm. It eliminates manual
entry of data while improving data quality, reliability
and timeliness, all of which leads to improved decision
making on farm. The use of RFID also offers better
traceability and fraud prevention.
Using this technology, Dairymaster can identify each
cow to the piece of equipment they are interacting with.
This is particularly important in the dry cow period, as
during this time, the dietary needs of the cow changes.
The Smart Feeder is a standalone system designed to
accurately dispense supplements just prior to calving.
It allows the farmer to easily feed cows on an individual
basis based on body condition score, stage of production
and health status. Therefore, the cows are being correctly
nourished so they return to healthy milking as soon as
nature will allow.
Herd health can often be more about prevention than
cure, so the Dairymaster Feed Rite in parlour feeders
helps maintain cows at the best possible condition,
increase milk yields and cater for their individual nutrition
As herds are getting larger, the Dairymaster Cluster
cleanse is an immense aid for improving milking
hygiene and is of great assistance against the spread
of contagious mastitis during milking, such as
Staphylococcus aureus. Each cluster is rinsed after each
cow is milked, which results in a more hygienic cluster for
the next cow.
Conditioning for the herd does not just relate to a
balanced diet but also to their housing environment. That
is why Dairymaster has developed manure scrapers to
ensure a more hygienic environment for herds and better
udder health. Their automatic scrapers give unequalled
standards of reliability and adaptability. As cow numbers
are increasing and buildings get larger, you need a
robust, strong and efficient scraper.
Dairymaster cooling tanks keep the milk in better
condition and reduces the electricity used. Even
following a power failure, the milk in the tank will only
vary in temperature by less than half a degree in 24
hours. The customer can text the tank and it will text
them back with information as requested. The tank wash
system is designed to provide powerful, thorough and
30. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
DAIRY FARMING EXPANDS INTASMANIA
Tasmania, which is off southeast Australia, is almost
as large as the Republic of Ireland. Over the past 10
years there has been a 19.5 per cent increase in milk
production there, compared to an overall decrease of 15
per cent for Australia. Here we report on the experiences
of one local family and how the national trend has been
reflected on their farm
Tasmania is the only state to show growth, based
around sustainable management practices and efficient
production systems. Like Ireland, they also have a
favourable climate for pasture-based farming.
There are 430 dairy farms in Tasmania. Total milk
production for 2011/12 was approximately 800m litres.
This is eight per cent of the total milk production for
Australia and the equivalent of 85 per cent of the total
processed by Dairygold, our largest Coop which has
3,000 milk suppliers.
Case study:The Crowden family
The installation of a DeLaval VMS (voluntary milking
system) enabled the Crowden family to convert an out
farm into a highly profitable dairy enterprise. Their 80ha
farm (50ha grazing platform) supports 205 spring-
calving milkers and they plan to increase to 240 cows
next season. The operation involves less than a full time
labour equivalent (0.75 FTE). The family believes the
key to the system running smoothly is the integrated
herd management software which operates the robots,
out of parlour feeders and cow traffic. Marcus Crowden
and his wife Zed, farm in partnership with his parents
Denis and Sheryl, operating two farms at Caveside
near Launceston. When their home farm reached its
milking capacity they looked at options for expansion.
According to Marcus: “The out farm was 5km from
home, so automatic milking was a profitable way for us
to increase our herd without buying more land locally
or employing extra staff. It allowed us to increase the
herd from 320 to 450 (500 cows are planned for next
year) and total milk production from 2.4 to 3.2m litres.”
In mid-2012 they installed two DeLaval VMS robots
and three out of parlour feeders, but within a
year, added another robot and three more out
of parlour feeders to increase the herd size. On
average, dairy herds are smaller in Ireland but
the same benefits apply where a voluntary milk
system suits the farm situation and the farmer.
Marcus says: “We were pleasantly surprised how quickly
we adapted to the new system. I expected it to take a full
season to get used to the three-way grazing, working out
a routine and learning the hardware and software of the
VMS system. But after just four months, our system was
running smoothly and we were enjoying the benefits of
automated milking,” Marcus said.
A key to its success for the Crowdens has been their
ability to manage much of the operation remotely,
through the computer at home, or using a smartphone.
Farm fragmentation is a major issue in Ireland with
an average of 3.5 land parcels per farm in 2007 so
the Crowden situation is very relevant for many dairy
farmers here. Marcus explains: “We can see what’s
happening through two web cameras located at the
milking plant. And we have remote control of the
31. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
robots, smart gates and feeding system through
Delpro, the herd management system that came with
the robots. So even if we are in Melbourne on holiday
we can keep track of what’s happening and sort out
most issues that arise. We really enjoy that flexibility.”
Marcus is pragmatic about the amount of time he
spends on the computer. “DelPro records an enormous
amount of data. I spend about 15 minutes a day
reviewing reports on production, milking frequency
and feed intake. About once a week I’ll spend an
hour looking at records in more detail,” he said. All
of the herd data is recorded in Delpro so all the
records are in the one place and easily accessible.
“Every time a cow does something, it is recorded. Nearly
all of it is automatic. The main data we enter manually
covers heat detection, inseminations and health
treatments for mastitis. The only category that takes
time is the inseminations; I generally record that in a
notebook and enter it into the computer on a rainy day.”
On weekdays, Marcus spends two to three hours at
the out farm, but prefers to work longer on Friday and
Monday to allow him to have most of the weekend
off. “When I’m playing football, I can organise it so that
I only spend 15 or 20 minutes a day at the farm on the
weekends.” Marcus has been particularly pleased with the
out of parlour feeders which enable individual feeding.
“We installed them primarily to encourage cow flow –
so the cows had a reason to want to leave the robots
after milking. Individual feeding means we are getting
much better value for our investment in concentrates
by directing more feed to the higher producing cows.
“DelPro is really user-friendly. And I liked the way we
could run with the system settings in the early days but
have the flexibility to customise settings to our own
needs if we want.
With such a high stocking rate (4.25 cows/ha at present
and expected to reach 5 cows/ha next year), Marcus
keeps a close eye on production per ha. Now in its
second season, Marcus is aiming to produce 2000kg
milk solids/ha. While cows are fed an average of 2-2t
concentrates per lactation, Marcus is also aiming for
very high pasture utilisation: 20 tonnes/ha. “We have to
get our pasture allocation right to maintain voluntary
cow movement around the system. It isn’t as hard as I
expected. But I am also keen to achieve high pasture
utilisation because it has so much impact on our
profitability.” The number of cows visiting the robots is
relatively even throughout the day and night, although
surprisingly, the busiest time is between midnight and
4am. In pasture-based automatic milking systems, this is
often a period when few cows present to be milked.
This is because these cows typically rest from about
2am to about 5am following a grazing session around
midnight. Marcus has programmed his system allow
access to fresh feed four times a day as follows:
1:40am-8:30am – 45 per cent of daily pasture allocation;
8:30am-4:30pm – 35 per cent of daily pasture allocation;
4:30pm-11:00pm – 20 per cent of daily pasture
11pm-1:40am – feed pad (brewers grain or silage).
At the peak of lactation Marcus aims for cows to be
milked three times a day on average, although the higher
producing cows will be milked as often as four times a
day. “For example, in November we had a cow producing
70-80L/day and she was being milked 3.6 times a day.”
The FutureDairy team(FutureDairy is an RD
development programme to help Australian dairy
farmers manage the likely challenges of the next 20
years) recently analysed the labour efficiency on
the Crowden’s robotic farm. They estimate that the
Crowdens have 0.75 labour units for 205 cows, which
is equivalent to 270 cows per full time equivalent (FTE),
more than double the Tasmanian average of 100 cows
per FTE and well above the average of the top 25% (137
cows/FTE). DeLaval AMS systems specialist, Anthony
Baxter, said the Crowdens have the best performing AMS
set up that he has seen in Australia.
“They have an amazing ability with DelPro software.
They picked it up very easily and use it to run their farm
remotely – so the system works for them rather than
them working for the system,” Mr Baxter said. The irony
is that Marcus still milks cows on the home farm.
“We’ll be ready for a new dairy on the home farm in 5-8
years and robots will be the first option we look at,”
Glanbia milk supplier, Marcus Grey with DeLavalVoluntary Milking System (VMS) robotic
milking system. On this farm, twoVMS units were installed in October, 2011, and another
VMS unit is on order.
32. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
PITFALLS OF SILO CONSTRUCTION
Teagasc Specialist Service, Kildalton
Building a silage pit below specification is foolhardy.
Using good workmanship and correctly specified
materials will give value for money. Careful attention to
detail during construction will lengthen the lifespan of
the pit and ensure effluent is collected and conveyed to
storage without fail. The extra cost of this attention to
detail will only add about 10-15 per cent to the cost.
Adequate hardcore compaction, correct procedures for
placing concrete, proper curing, effective forming and
sealing of joints are all areas where neglect can spell
disaster. Silage pits are classified as storage structures
under the Nitrates directive.
As a result, they must be designed, sited, constructed,
maintained and managed to prevent run-off or seepage,
directly or indirectly, into groundwater or surface
water. They must also be constructed according to
the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
specifications (even in the absence of grants). Relevant
specifications (S) are S100 (concrete), S128 (silage
bases), S128A (re-surfacing) and S120 (for walled pits).
These are available on www.agriculture.gov.ie or from
your Teagasc adviser.
Checking for defects
If an old silage pit is defective then careful assessment
is called for to decide on the best course of action.
The defects you are looking for are: subsidence; a poor
foundation; eroded areas; leaking joints; cracks; and
absent, leaking or ineffective channels. Even without
power washing, you can check for evidence of these
defects. One can test for subsidence and a weak
foundation by bouncing a fencing post on the slab.
If you hear a hollow sound then this indicates a poor
foundation, whereas, a floor with full support and no
cracks will emit a sharper thud.
If there are a lot of cracks present, the slab will be
structurally unsound. The cracks allow effluent to
leak into the foundation and soil underneath, thereby
weakening the slab. Pouring a new slab over this floor is
not recommended because the same problems will start
to crop up in a few years.
If the channels are worn or cracked, the only effective
way to rectify them is to replace them. Worn and eroded
concrete areas of the floor may look bad but if there
are no cracks present then it will do. However, over time
erosion of concrete at joints may make it difficult to
maintain the joint seal intact.
Where the old floor is extensively cracked, the entire
floor and its foundation need to be taken up and a new
floor laid in its place. Or maybe the new silage slab
should be built on a new site.
Replacing an existing silage base:
If the pit is part of a bigger yard, use a concrete road
saw to cut a straight line between what you want to
retain and replace. This will give a smooth, sealable
edge against which you can butt the new slab;
remove the existing floor and any hardcore material;
excavate any soft spots down to solid ground. The
cost of site works and hardcore material for replacing
an existing silage base is usually a significant extra
+), which should be considered when
place a new layer of graded hardcore over the site
and extend up to wall foundations, if any, or at least
300mm beyond the proposed edges of the floor;
compact the hardcore with a vibrating roller to a
finished depth of at least 150mm. Hardcore placed
in excavated deep soft spots should be compacted
in 150mm layers. Failure to compact the hardcore
material adequately will lead to subsidence and lack
of support for the slab and channels, causing cracking
under the weight of machinery. This problem cannot
be rectified once the slab is completed;
bind the compacted hardcore with sand and run
the vibrating roller over it to bed it in. Lay a sheet of
33. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
1,000-gauge polythene on the finished foundation;
order the concrete only to the approved department
specification – S100; and,
place and compact the concrete to a finished depth
of 125mm. The concrete must be thickened to at
least 150mm under the base of the channels. The slab
should be compacted using a vibrating screed and
poker vibrator. Laying concrete is regarded as simple
yet, defects from poor workmanship can be seen.
Preventing moisture loss – curing
Curing must be a priority as this process prevents
evaporation of water from near the surface of the newly
placed concrete. This water is necessary for complete
hydration (setting and hardening) of the concrete. As
a result, the finished concrete has a harder, less porous,
dust-free surface with no hairline cracks. It is important
not to add too much water to the mix but it is even more
important to retain the water until the cement reacts
with it to form concrete. Where curing is neglected the
concrete in the top 40-50mm won’t be as durable.
Curing should begin as soon as possible after placing the
concrete. Covering with polythene is the most practical
method. Problems arise because there is a tendency
to use old sheets and not to secure the sheet properly,
especially around the edges. Wind blows in under the
sheet, causing the surface to dry rapidly. The concrete
will be cured properly if moisture stays on the surface of
the slab and on the underside of the polythene.
Other problems arise because the sheet is usually thrown
back during the day to allow for further construction
and it may be removed altogether before the concrete
has cured properly. The sheet should be left in place for
seven to 10 days. Polythene will protect the surface finish
from heavy rain just after laying the concrete.
As concrete hardens, it cools and starts to contract or
shrink. Joints must be formed to control the degree of
contraction and confine it to the joints. Expansion joints
may also be necessary as concrete does expand when
heated by the sun, although expansion joints are only
necessary in long stretches of concrete roads and yards,
every 70m or so.
If no joints are cut or formed, cracks will form in time,
usually within the first year. If a crack is left to develop it
will zigzag, making it very difficult to seal, whereas a joint
that is formed or cut in a straight line is easy to seal.
If a base is laid in bays, joints should be cut across the
bay within 24 hours of pouring the concrete. Space
joints every 4.5m, 5m or 6m, depending on the width
of the bay e.g. if bays are 6m wide have 4.5m between
the joints. The depth of this joint should be one quarter
to one third the thickness of the slab. Shallow tracks are
The joint should be cut deeper near the channels (the
concrete is thicker there) and to the outside of the base.
Across the base of the channel, this only needs to be cut
to 20mm, just deep enough to hold the sealant.
A natural contraction joint is formed between two bays
cast alongside each other. With these joints, all you need
to do is cut a shallow track between the bays. The track
only needs to be 12-20mm deep and wide, enough to
carry and hold the sealant.
If the base is poured in one complete slab, all joints
should be cut within 24 hours. Joints should be spaced
so that the slab is made up of 5 x 5m or 4.5 x 6m
sections. In this case all joints should be cut to one
quarter to one third of the thickness of the slab.
When the slab has cured properly, the next thing is to
prepare joints for sealing. Prepare the joints, which have
already been cut, by widening them out to 12-20mm
near the surface. Joints between bays can be prepared
by cutting a track or groove along the dividing line. The
hand-held con-saw can be used for this. The sealant can
be poured or gunned into this track or groove. Wash or
brush out all the joints thoroughly to remove all dust etc.
If joints are wet allow them to dry.
It is essential to prime the joints. Sealant used without
a primer will not get a good grip in a joint. Two types
of sealant are commonly used, either hot poured
(rubberised bitumen) or gun applied (polyurethane).
Hot bitumen is only suitable for horizontal joints. Do
not use non-flexible blown bitumen. It is not rubberised,
brittle when cold, has no flexibility and, with any small
movement in the joint, it will shear and leak. Gun-applied
34. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
polyurethane or bitumen-based sealants can be used for
wall joints and floor joints.
Silage effluent channels
Silage pits must have channels to collect and drain the
effluent. A base must have channels on all four sides. A
silage apron is also required (see S128) in front of the
base. It can be used for filling/emptying and if the pit
gets too full. The channel system for the base and apron
should be separate and independently drained.
The most important feature of any channel is that it has
a vertical edge to intercept effluent and a fall to carry it
away. Silage effluent should enter the channels under the
cover of the silage polythene and the edge of the ensiled
grass should not extend onto or over any channel.
A selection of channels taken from specification S128
are shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3. Open space, to allow
effluent to flow, is maintained by placing a plastic pipe
in the channel or a cover as in Figure 3. Dimensions can
be increased so the depth and width are both about
100mm. This makes it possible to fit a larger pipe in the
channel with room for effluent to seep in.
Effluent should be conveyed to the tank in sealed uPVC
sewer pipes. Figure 4 (S128) shows how a pipe elbow
can be used to drain away effluent and also divert clean
water outlet when the pit is empty. Diverted water is
visible because it flows over the concrete surface.
Replacing a section of the floor slab
Timely work will prevent more costly repairs in future.
If sections of the floor have subsided and cracked it is
Figure 1: Side edge or back
edge channel for a silage base
Figure 2: Front channel/cross channel. A
bigger channel (100x100mm) will give
better drainage.The concrete must be
thickened to 150mm under the base.
35. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
only necessary to break out and replace the affected
concrete. Use a concrete road or hand-held con-saw to
avoid unnecessary damage and to provide straight cut
edges to make it easy to seal the joints between old and
new sections. Remove the old concrete and hardcore.
Any soggy and blackened subsoil will have to be dug
out and filled with new hardcore material. Compact the
hardcore material with vibrating roller, and bring it up to
within 125mm of the finished floor level. Placing a thicker
layer of hardcore and concrete where the new meets the
old makes it a better job.
The smallest area that should be considered for a repair
like this is about 25m2
. All the other recommendations
above that apply to new silage bases also apply to this
renewed section of slab.
Siting a new silage pit
Look at all the options before deciding on the most
suitable site. Plenty of space is needed for the machinery
used by silage contractors. The best location will usually
be either in front of or alongside the winter housing,
making it convenient for feeding out during the winter
and for piping effluent to tanks. Leave room for any
future developments and expansion.
Figure 4: Channel drainage and clean
water surface diversion systemFigure 3: Alternative front channel
36. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
HIGH BIRTHWEIGHTSAND GOOD
MILK SUPPLY ESSENTIAL FOR PROFITABLE
Dr Tommy BOLAND,
School of Agriculture and Food Science, UCD
Tuas maith, leath na h-oibre – a good start is half the
work. Never was this saying more apt than when it
comes to lamb growth rate. Heavier lambs at birth
give you heavier lambs at weaning. A 1kg increase in
lamb birth weight will ensure lambs are 2-3kg heavier
at weaning. In most cases, this difference in weaning
weight will be retained until slaughter. In addition to this,
nutrition of the lamb in early life is absolutely critical to
ensure good weaning weights and a short interval to
slaughter post weaning. While in certain highly managed
conditions, the lamb can be weaned onto an all-
concentrate diet at six-weeks-old, in our typical pasture-
based systems the lamb is almost entirely dependent
on milk for the first six to seven weeks. This is gradually
reduced until 13-weeks-old when the lamb is able to
compensate by increasing its intake of solid feed.
At the recommended weaning age of 14-weeks-old, the
lamb is able to perform well on a largely grass diet. The
suckling lamb is at its most efficient in the first six/seven
weeks of life. With a dry matter (DM) content of 20 per
cent, ewe milk contains a much higher level of milk solids
than cow’s milk and the young lamb can convert this to
live weight gain on a 1:1 ratio. For every kg of milk DM the
lamb consumes, it will increase its weight by 1kg. This
level of efficiency will never be repeated in the lifetime of
a lamb. Even on an all concentrate diet lambs will convert
DM to live weight gain with an efficiency of only between
3.5-4.5kg of DM to 1kg of gain.
Milk production is influenced primarily by nutrient intake,
body condition score, litter size and age of the ewe. Peak
milk production for a twin-bearing ewe is 21 days after
lambing, and 28 days after birth for a single-bearing ewe,
depending on the nutrition of the ewe.
37. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
Month (relative to lambing) -2 -1 Lambing 1 2 3
ME (MJ/d) 13.5 17 20.2 32.4 24.2 16.2
MP (g/d) 105 122 137 303 228 152
Table 1: Metabolisable energy (ME; MJ/day) and metabolisable protein (MP; g/day)
requirements of a twin-bearing ewe in late pregnancy and lactation.
Table 1 indicates the ME requirements of a twin-bearing
ewe during the final two months of pregnancy and
the first three months of lactation. The increase in
intake by the ewe is slower than her increase in energy
requirements, resulting in the mobilisation of body
reserves and a loss of body condition. This is a normal
and important part of the production cycle.
It is recommended that the average condition for a flock
at lambing is 3.0. Ewes with a body condition score of
3.5+ may have lower lactation-intake potential when
compared to ewes with a BCS of 3.0. Between mid-
pregnancy and early lactation, an affordable drop of up
to 1.0 unit of a BCS is acceptable. During late pregnancy,
no more than a 0.5 unit drop in BCS is advised. This 0.5
unit drop is equivalent to approximately 100MJ ME of
Spread over seven weeks, the daily energy supply
coming from this BCS change is equivalent to the
energy content of 150g of barley. However, excessive
mobilisation of body reserves during late pregnancy
can lead to twin lamb disease, hence monitoring of ewe
BCS is vital. In terms of supplementing the ewe, this is
easier to do in late pregnancy than early lactation, in
so far as possible, energy reserves should be used in
early lactation rather than late pregnancy. Teagasc data
indicates that spring grass, with a sward height of greater
than 4cm, should be adequate during early lactation.
Where sward heights are less than 4cm supplementation
is advisable to sustain flock performance. For the ewe to
efficiently utilise her body reserves in early lactation, she
must have adequate protein intakes. For ewes at pasture,
protein levels are generally adequate.
Recent work from Lyons Research Farm, University
College Dublin indicates that DM content influences grass
intake. This is particularly relevant in light of the very
wet spring we had this year. Intake falls as herbage DM
content falls. The need for concentrate supplementation
needs to be considered in this regard.
While optimum grassland management and grass quality
can support very high lamb growth rates, reductions in
grass supply and quality need to be addressed promptly,
especially in the first six weeks of lactation, to ensure
performance is not compromised. Data from Lyons
shows that milk supply during this early life period has a
dramatic effect on lamb growth.
A comparison between twin-born lambs reared as twins,
and twin born lambs reared as singles, clearly shows that
even with twin suckling lambs, milk supply can have a
limiting factor on lamb growth rate. Lambs born as twins,
suckled as singles were 2.8kg heavier at five weeks of
age than their counterparts, which were born and reared
as twins. This difference in weight at five weeks of age
came in spite of having the same birth weight.
38. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
PROFIT FROM EWES ONA SMALL FARM
How do you make a good living from 70ac (28.3ha) in
West Tyrone? The key question that drew almost 200
sheep farmers to an AgriSearch farm walk, hosted by
Isaac Crilly of Lislaird, Castlederg. The answer, Isaac
explained, is to maximise your kilos of lamb sold per ewe
and above all, per acre.
“A U grade lamb returns an extra £2 over a run of the mill
R grade, but producing an extra 0.1kg lambs weaned per
ewe means another £8, so carcass quality is not our key
consideration,” Isaac revealed.
Isaac‘s 2013 sales averaged 1.58 lambs per ewe, including
ewe lambs. A 19kg carcasses averaging £119 a piece
would leave a benchmarked gross margin per ha of £548.
An impressive £170/ha more than the Northern Ireland
benchmarked average as a result of high stocking rates.
Ewes lamb during March and April and the stocking rate
is 19 ewes per ha. The output on this progressive farm
last year was 567kg carcass of lamb per ha. The Crilly
family have been hosting AFBI on farm research for the
last 15 years.
Breeding developments breed interest
At the AgriSearch event farmers showed tremendous
interest in breeding systems used to produce this
impressive profit. Isaac has Belclare, NZ Suffolk and
Meatlinc rams put to composite ewes, and is one of five
producers involved in an AFBI, Hillsborough rotational-
Findings from this research on selecting ewe
replacements demonstrated the potential of using
composite ewes in terms of production efficiency, that is,
lamb output per kg of ewe.
The benefits of selecting home-grown ewe replacements,
as well as terminal sires, on performance records rather
than looks alone, were clear to see on the bottom line of
this impressive farm business.
With limited acreage Isaac and Elizabeth Crilly make no
silage, therefore, the ewes are fed only on grass, straw
39. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
Major has launched another heavy-duty mower to its
machinery range, the revamped ProMow Disc Mower.
According to Major, the mower is user-friendly and can
be easily mounted to the tractor by a single operator.
It folds neatly and safely into a 1.8m transport width. The
mower has a heavy-duty PTO with overrun for added
protection of the cutting bar.
With blades manufactured from 4mm hardened steel,
Major says that the ProMow gives an excellent cut using
the strong and reliable 6-disc Comer cutting bar. The
cutting bar is easy to access for routine maintenance.
The ProMow also has a parallel linkage, which gives the
bed a flat lift on headlands or in awkward field contours.
To reduce wear and tear on the belts, the heavy-duty,
spring-loaded pulley tensioner gives consistent tension
while the grass board allows the swath to be neatly
aligned and separated from uncut material.
Easyfit topping skids are supplied as standard for heavier
40. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
IMPROVE SILAGE QUALITYWITH MOLASSES
Regarding the feed value of the crop at cutting, this
Crop maturity at harvest – stemmier, more mature
crops have lower feed value
Sward type – many old pasture swards dominated by
poor grasses have lower feed value than swards of
Sward conditions – lodged, wet crops can rapidly
lose quality and have a lower feed value at harvest.
Similarly, swards that were not grazed sufficiently
short in autumn or spring can have a stemmy
decaying butt that can reduce feed value at harvest.
The efficiency of crop ensilment, preservation and
feeding out depends on only attempting to wilt the
crop if it can genuinely dry rapidly and ensiling it free of
contamination from soil, manure etc.
If required, apply even and adequate appropriate
additive. Fast-filling followed by immediate good sealing
should ensure the ensiled forage is stored in an air-free
environment with the seal protected throughout storage.
Management at feed-out that minimises the duration of
exposure of silage to air is also necessary.
The basic process in silage making is the conversion
of plant sugars to fermentation acids, which preserves
the silage from attack by spoilage organisms. An
essential part of this is the exclusion of air, firstly to allow
fermentation to occur and secondly to prevent mould
growth during storage. Therefore, for good preservation
there are two essentials: adequate sugars and airtight
conditions. Sugars are adequate when there is about 3
per cent soluble sugar in the grass juice. However, this is
a variable figure depending on other conditions. Good
silage can be made even at a sugar level of 2 per cent,
but below this is very risky.
Dry matter has a huge effect on sugar concentration,
which is why weather at harvesting is so crucial. Sugar
levels increase in sunny weather and with increasing
grass maturity. Sugar levels can be up to 50 per cent
higher in ryegrasses than old pasture grasses. Mowing
when dry, followed by rapid wilting, gives a higher sugar
The estimation of sugar levels in grass juice gives a useful
guide to the capacity of a crop to preserve. This can be
done by sending samples to a lab or by measurement
with a sugar refractometer at local advisory offices.
If sugar levels are too low, the addition of a sugar
41. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
source such as molasses is a convenient solution. Apply
between nine and 18 litres per tonne of fresh forage,
depending on its condition. Another advantage of using
molasses is the stickiness of the molasses, which helps
bind the forage in the silo tightly together. This reduces
the air in the clamp, raising hygiene and increasing the
forage that can to be held in the clamp.
The bacteria that turn sugar into acid only grow in the
absence of air. Therefore, rapid and sustained exclusion
of air is necessary for preservation. The faster air is
excluded, the more of the original sugar that is available
for the production of acids. Fast filling and good
compaction quickly establishes air-free conditions in
the pit. Effective sealing is essential to maintain air-free
conditions during the storage period. Heating in the top
two feet of the clamp after opening is fairly common and
is very difficult to control especially in smaller operations
where the rate of usage of the clamp is slow. It is
necessary to give the top of the clamp plenty of rolling
before covering and then to weigh down well.
Why does molasses benefit silage quality?
Molasses stimulates fermentation and facilitates natural
silage preservation; it increases lactic acid production,
lowers ammonia-N and silage pH; and improves dry
matter digestibility (DMD) and silage intake. Molasses is
also a rich source of natural sugar and energy.
When should molassses be used?
Heavy crops (high N application) near heading date
Leafy crops with less than 2.5 per cent sugars
Unwilted or lightly wilted crops.
Unfavourable/broken weather conditions
How much molasses should be used?
Molasses application rates (grass preservation)
Grass sugars (WSC) Molasses application
Kg/tonne Litre/tonne Gallon/tonne
0-1 per cent 26 18 4
1-2 per cent 19 14 3
2-3 per cent 13 9 2
Typical requirement at 9 litres/tonne silage
10 t/ac 12t/ac 15t/ac
20 acres 1,800 L 2,160 L 2,700 L
60 acres 5,400 L 6,480 L 8,100 L
Figure 1: Some 14l of molasses per tonne of fresh crop will raise the sugar (WSC) content by 1 per cent.
42. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
THE NEW EASYWAY
TO GETTING RESULTS
Conan Condon, Intouch Director at Richard Keenan
Co, says work on the new system began in 2003.
“We began to measure feed intakes and outputs and
developed feeding protocols/practices to support
farmers in achieving more predictable results. We found
that physical ration presentation, combined with good
(chemical) ration balance, could help farmers get more
milk and meat from less feed, while significantly reducing
animal production disease.” In 2008, led by Professor
David Beever, Keenan nutritionists, engineers and
information technology experts discovered the Mech-
fiber mix and developed PACE, a patented, web-based
technology that decides the best way to mix a specific
ration. “From this, the optimum physical-chemical mix
is easily produced every day – a world breakthrough in
precision feeding and nutrition.”
The benefit of Intouch
Field work has shown that up to 60kg of milk solids
can be achieved with little or no extra feed by feeding a
balanced diet strategically. In a busy work environment
how can you determine when is the right time to put in
or take out supplementary feeds and construct diets in a
consistent manner to maximise forage utilisation?
Every new Keenan is fitted with PACE Connect hardware
or it can be retro-fitted to any six-paddle Keenan,
allowing the same mix to be produced each day. The
fitting of Auto-Stop (for tractors with an electronic PTO
button) or audible alarm (option for older tractors) helps
to ensure that over processing does not happen. New
diets can be formulated remotely and uploaded direct
to the PACE Connect box, while actual feeding data is
automatically downloaded to the Intouch database. Once
this information is coupled with automatic download of
milk production data (quantity and quality), facilitated by
your co-operative, the Intouch software and personnel
can determine if action is required in relation to
performance. This ensures real-time decisions based on
facts from both your farm and other customers’ farms
in the area. For example, if butterfat is poor in your area
due to weather and grass conditions, no diet changes are
required to rectify it.
Once a download of milk data has happened, a report
is issued to the customer, which gives a profitability per
hectare figure, both for this download and on a year-
to-date basis, along with supplementary feed per cow,
(purchased and home-grown) and associated costs.
A recent internal study of results from 584 users of the
Keenan Intouch precision feeding system versus users of
the basic Keenan nutrition in 2013 showed over 2L more
milk/cow/day was being achieved by those following
the precision system. In terms of margin over feed costs,
their advantage was worth an additional €69-cent in
margin per cow (see Figure 2 below).
43. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
Intouch was recently launced at Keenan’s 30th
anniversary conference and, according to Conan.
“It created the opportunity for enduring win-win
relationships through the farm and food value chain.
Through collaboration with the greater industry, Intouch
can take this efficiency innovation, which creates new
possibilities in milk and meat market, to the exciting
world of food production.”
In early April this year, Taoiseach, Enda Kenny presented
Keenan Intouch with the Agri-food Innovation prize at
The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards.
Speaking at the awards, Company Chairman, Gerard
Keenan said: “This award is a great tribute to 2,500
customers who have now adopted new precision
feeding technology, as well as our people. Together, they
have developed a platform that is important to global
sustainable food production. By the end of this year,
Intouch will be operational in all our European markets,
New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. Indeed, we
hope to have Intouch in Asia before the end of 2014.”
Energy Corrected MilkYield Basic System
inTouch Precision System
March 2013 March 2014
Figure 2: InTouch systemV basic system.
Do I need to be able to operate a computer?
No, not necessary as all computer interaction can be carried out by the Keenan Intouch
team. All you will have to work is the pace connect weigh-box on the machine.
What happens if I am not feeding with the machine in the summer?
Automatic milk data downloads still happen – reports are generated in the same way
and, in the event of deviations in milk persistency, both the Intouch team and the
customer will be alerted.
Will it take more time to do the feeding?
No, it should not and, in most cases, autostop can actually free up time. So, when dry
cow mixes are being processed the machine can be left mixing and choppoing leaving
you free to do something else.When the machine is finished mixing, it will disengage
the PTO ensuring no over processing, unnecessary fuel usage or wear and tear on
I work with my own independent nutritionist, so is Intouch relevant for me?
Yes, it is.With your permission, information is shared with your nutritionist, as well as
with you, and monitoring happens in the same way.Your nutritionist can formulate
and upload diets to the PACE Connect weigh-box or request Intouch to do so for them.
Pictured recently atThe IrishTimes and InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards 2014: Dr.
Noel Cawley,Teagasc; John Mc Curdy, Keenans; Gerard Keenan, Keenans;Taoiseach,
Enda Kenny. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
44. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
MAKING USE OF GRASSAND FORAGE:
GETTING BACKTO BASICS
Northern Ireland Agri Journalist
The extremes of weather over the past number of years
have taken their toll on soil conditions and sward quality
nationwide. Cattle and sheep farmers the length and
breadth of the island will be expected to increase output
from forage over the coming years as the food industry
strives to secure enhanced export opportunities in the
wake of a growing global population.
It was against this background that Dairying
Development Adviser with the College of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Trevor Alcorn,
offered some useful insights on how farmers can
maximise silage quality in 2014 and beyond.
“Sampling should be undertaken between the months of
October and November and repeated every three to four
years,” Trevor explained.
“In the first instance, soil testing will shed light on the
pH status. The optimal pH value is in the range 6.0-6.5.
However, many soils have values that are much lower
than this. Under these acid conditions, crop growth
will be impacted. In addition, the uptake of nutrients
in the form of fertilisers will also be considerably
reduced. Adding lime is the only way to increase soil pH.
Significantly, the usage of lime has dropped dramatically
over the past three decades. This trend must be reversed
if our livestock sectors are to make better use of grass
and silage.” Trevor went on to point out that fertiliser
applications should be based on soil test results.
“Farmers should also make optimal use of slurry, in terms
of its nitrogen, phosphate and potash content. Studies
have confirmed that applying 3,000 gallons of cattle
slurry per acre on to grassland has a value ranging from
€60 in the autumn to €75 in the spring.”
On the issue of selecting compound grassland fertiliser,
Trevor made the point that most swards will benefit from
an application of sulphur. He also highlighted the sward
damage caused by compaction on many farms over
recent years. This is due to farmers and contractors using
heavier machinery and the wet summers that have so
characterised recent weather patterns in Ireland.
“Heavier stocking rates have also led to increased
compaction problems in grazing areas,” he commented.
“Trials have shown that sub soiling in the autumn months
will improve drainage in fields that have been badly
affected. This will then allow the land to rest over the
Trevor also highlighted the benefits of regular re-seeding
and the need for effective weed control measures in
all grassland areas. It is often overlooked that Ireland is
an internationally recognised centre of grass breeding
excellence. A recent review of trials carried out at
Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) confirmed
45. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
TOTAL CONFINEMENTVS. PASTURE SYSTEMS:
WHAT DOESTHE SCIENCE SAY?
Dr. Gareth ARNOTT,
AgriSearch-funded Dairy Research Fellow at
Queen’s University Belfast
There is increasing interest in total confinement and
zero-grazing dairy systems. Indeed, within Northern
Ireland interest has spiked following this year’s late spring
and subsequent fodder crisis, together with a strong and
expanding global dairy market. However, maintaining
growth in the dairy sector is a major challenge,
particularly with land availability being a limiting factor. In
this environment, many dairy producers are questioning
what the best production system for their situation is.
AgriSearch, the organisation which administers the
dairy levy within Northern Ireland, is funding a literature
review entitled “Total Confinement vs. Pasture Systems:
What does the science say?” This joint project by
researchers at the Institute for Global Food Security at
Queen’s University Belfast and dairy scientists at the
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, is reviewing global
dairy science literature to examine the advantages and
disadvantages of both systems. A holistic approach will
be used to assess the production, health and welfare,
economic and environmental implications of each
system. To date, 196 relevant studies have been identified
and results are being collated. However, a number of
major themes have already emerged.
The primary benefits of total confinement systems arise
from the high levels of cow management achievable.
With high input systems, cows typically achieve
increased yields of milk solids. These systems also
enable dietary management to increase dry matter (DM)
intake, combating negative energy balance and helping
to maintain body condition. In addition, cows are not
the genetic progress made with new grass varieties
developed during this period, which works out at approx.
0.5 per cent per annum. “This means that the genetic
improvement over a decade is around five per cent,
which is a highly significant figure,” AFBI Grass Breeder,
David Johnston told Irish Farmers Monthly. “These
figures only reflect the potential of the differing grass
varieties to produce dry matter: achieving this on-farm is
an entirely different matter. I am fully aware that farmers
have cut back on the fertilisers they apply annually.
However, modern grass varieties need a minimum level of
soil fertility to express their full growth potential.
This is an issue that the grass-based sectors must
actively address moving forward.”
David went on to point that significant numbers of dairy
farmers have forgotten about the need to produce as
much milk as possible from grazed grass and silage.“I
recently met a dairy analyst from England, who told me
that total production costs within his client base ranged
from 12-35cent/l. Obviously, those farmers committed to
producing high quality forage were at the lower end of
this spectrum, putting them in the best possible position
to withstand the volatility in the dairy sector.
“I know there has been tremendous genetic
advancements made by livestock breeders over recent
years. This progress has been matched by plant breeders
in terms of new and improved grass varieties. Swards
made up of modern varieties will produce the quantity
and quality of forage required by modern dairy cows,
beef cattle and sheep. The term rocket fuel comes
immediately to mind in this regard.”
Both soil structure and fertility both lay a crucial role in
promoting grass growth, according to David. “Improved
drainage, in tandem with regular liming, would have a
tremendously impact in this regard. I am aware that poor
incomes in recent years have not allowed farmers to
carry out as much soil improvement work as they would
wish. However, this may change given the very upbeat
prospects for farming at the present time.”
AFBI Grass Breeder,
46. Forage and Nutrition Guide 2014
exposed to adverse weather, nor is the land damaged by
poaching. However, costs of production are considerably
higher than pasture-based systems. It is only with larger
herds that economies of scale can really be achieved.
This raises the related issue regarding attitudes to
herd size, with the idea of ‘mega-dairies’ proving
controversial. However, grass is the cheapest feed
available and systems incorporating pasture typically
achieve higher profitability (per litre, per cow) when
compared with similarly sized herds in confined systems.
A decreased reliance on purchased feed and lower costs
make pasture systems less vulnerable to volatility in
commodity prices. Lower financial risk is likely to become
an increasingly important advantage in a post-quota
globalised market where volatility is likely to increase.
Additional important benefits of systems incorporating
pasture may include: improved health (decreased
lameness, mastitis, mortality and culling rates), increased
cow welfare (increased comfort/lying behaviour
and decreased aggression), improved reproductive
performance and fertility, improved milk composition
(e.g. milk FA profiles with potential positive human health
benefits), and lower environmental impacts, including
greenhouse gas emissions. These are considerable
Preliminary results clearly indicate there are advantages
and disadvantages of each system. Could it be that
with the conventional system of winter housing and
seasonal pasture, producers are already adopting a
‘best of both worlds’ approach? It is also worth noting
that the majority of British consumers (95 per cent in a
recent study) do not think it is acceptable to keep cows
permanently housed indoors.
Surely this current clean, green producer image is a
marketing opportunity for milk producers in Northern
Ireland and the Republic who have to export most of
their dairy products to Britain and elsewhere.
Other countries are already embracing this approach,
with grazing in the Dutch dairy sector being encouraged
by premiums from dairy companies and recent industry
announcements supporting systems incorporating
outdoor grazing, while other countries such as Finland
and Sweden have regulations that mandate access to
pasture. Is it sensible for the dairy industry here to put its
positive pasture-based image at risk by a move to total
The industry is at a crossroads in terms of translating
‘sustainable intensification’ goals into reality and some
see a move to total confinement systems as inevitable.
However, initial results of this review shows there are still
considerable benefits in incorporating pasture grazing
into production systems.
Ultimately, this is more than a scientific question,
with the choice of system depending on individual
circumstances, ethics, policy and personal views on the
meaning of ‘sustainable intensification’.
47. Teagasc researchers partner with industry to drive innovation in the agriculture and food sector. The Teagasc
advisory network assists farmers to combine environmentally sensitive technical innovation with prudent
business management, and Teagasc education courses equip future farmers to become lifelong innovators.
Innovation Partner for the
Agriculture and Food Sector
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Maintaining Clean Water Grass Based Livestock Systems
Breeding New Potato Varieties Satellite Mapping for Precision Farming Sexing Semen for Animal Breeding
High Quality Gluten Free Breads Phage Therapy for Controlling MRSA New Product Development
Technology for the Food Sector
48. Bovilis® BVD can now be mixed with Bovilis® IBR Marker Live
and given in one syringe*
Use Medicines Responsibly
Always read the complete package leaflet or SPC before use.
Bovilis BVD Suspension for injection for cattle contains per 2 ml dose: inactivated antigen of cytopathogenic
BVD virus strain C-86: 50 ELISA Units, inducing ≥ 4.6 log2 VN units.
Bovilis IBR Marker live contains per 2 ml reconstituted dose: live BHV-1, strain GK/D (gE¯ ) 105.7
Withdrawal periods: zero days. Legal categories: ROI POM(E) NI POM-V
Further information is available from your prescriber or MSD Animal Health,
Red Oak North, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18, Ireland.
Tel: +353(0)12970220; E-mail: email@example.com Web: www.msd-animal-health.ie
and clinical signs
Bovilis® BVD can now be mixed with Bovilis® IBR Marker Live
and ggiven in one syyringge*
Two diseases, one shot!*
Further information about mixing is available from your vet or: www.msd-animal-health.ie
*Use as a booster dose in cattle from 15 months of age previously vaccinated separately with Bovilis IBR Marker Live or Bovilis BVD.
# As part of a BVD control programme.