Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Tasty lesson feed planning

As many dairy farmers in northern Victoria were calving down, a group of 13 finished a short course on feed planning including transition feeding last week.

LAURA GRIFFIN April 1, 2014 4:06am

Steven Kydd and Kirsty Solly were part of the feed training group.

As many dairy farmers in northern Victoria were calving down, a group of 13 finished a short course on feed planning including transition feeding last week.

Despite having different roles on farms of varying sizes, the students shared a passion for improving feeding systems as a way to improve cow health and increase milk production and profitability.

National Centre for Dairy Education industry trainer Sue Milne, who delivered the course with Jo Crosby at GOTAFE’s William Orr campus in Shepparton, said passionate discussions and thought-provoking questions had pushed the four-day course to be almost a day behind.

Mrs Milne said the course was a component of Certificate IV in Agriculture, but had been opened to other farmers following her discussions with many about feeding last year, particularly during the spring calving period.

She said farmers wanted to be able to feed the cows better, particularly when transitioning from dry to milking, and to better understand nutritionists and other consultants’ suggestions.

Sharyn Griffiths said although she mostly did book work on her and husband Steve’s Katunga farm, she wanted to understand the business better and be able to decipher what the consultant said about feed, which was an expensive input.

Anita Ligthart said the course would similarly help her support partner Wayne Stephens on the Strathmerton farm where they milk about 160 cows.

‘‘Wayne has been dairying his whole life, but this course will provide a new outlook on the feed practices and I’ll be able to help troubleshoot problems,’’ Ms Ligthart said.

An effective transition feeding program can reduce the risk of metabolic disorders, Ms Crosby told the group.

By gradually increasing the amount of grain given to in-calf cows to half the amount they would get in the dairy, their rumens can adapt to the milker diet.

To prepare cows for trouble-free calving and prevent milk fever and other metabolic disorders including ketosis and grass tetany, their diets need to have adequate nutrients.

Ms Crosby said on the day a cow calved, its calcium requirement doubled and if that was not met, milk fever resulted.

Because cows cannot get the full requirement of calcium from their diet at that point, their blood had to be slightly acidified to get the process of getting calcium reserves from the bones started, which is where the dietary cation-anion difference or DCAD came into play.

‘‘Farmers need to get their feeds tested to work out the DCAD of the cows’ whole diet,’’ she said.

One rule of thumb was to avoid any feeds with lots of the positively charged potassium, such as those treated with hay boosters.

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