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'Allowing our animals to graze their natural diet of grasses produces healthy stock that live longer and produce higher quality milk'
Grass plays a huge role in the feeding of all stock on our farm, it provides the most natural diet during the summer and silage for the winter months. Luckily, the temperate climate we have here in Ireland is ideally suited to growing top quality grass and lots of it! Grass is the key to our healthy, productive cows.
To achieve the maximum benefit from grass we use a paddock system. This involves dividing a field into paddocks using electric fences, and shifting the cows from paddock to paddock as they graze. Cows are moved based on the condition of the grass, giving daily access to pasture at the peak of nutrition and the right height for grazing.
Each paddock is accessible by roadway and has its own entrance
Cows have easy access to clean water
Young leafy digestible grass is available for grazing at all times
During peak growing season paddocks can be strip grazed using a movable electric fence to ensure grass is fully utilised
Paddock rotation also extends the grazing season and produces enough surplus grass during the summer months to provide quality silage for feeding in winter.
The main advantages of this system are:
top quality grass is always available to the cows
grass re-growths are protected
ground damage is minimised during wet weather
well managed grass is the most cost effective feed available
During the peak grazing season our cows are capable of producing up to 20 litres of milk from grass alone, above that we top them up with 0.5kgs of concentrated feed per litre produced. This is fed in the milking parlour.
WINTER FEED - SILAGE
Grass silage (fermented grass) is our main winter feed and quality is very important. First cut silage is harvested at the end of May when grass is at its peak in terms of nutrition and quantity. This is ensiled in a walled pit and will be fed to the milking cows. The second cut is harvested at the end of July. Quality is usually not as good as first cut but it is an ideal feed for dry cows and replacement heifers.
A number of years ago we put a reseeding plan in place for the entire farm. Our aim has been to reseed up to 5% of the grassland annually. The goal is to increase sward productivity by introducing new grass varieties which will in turn help to increase the number of grazing days. Improved grass quality with greater feed value and regrowth will give us a higher milk output per hectare and a better response to fertiliser.
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