Grass growth falls but potential milk from forage rises

The average GB grass growth rates, produced by Trouw Nutrition, fell to 59kg DM/ha/day last week. This is 10kg down on the previous week and is below the same time last year. Scotland and North West England saw growth rates of 67/68kg DM/ha/day and Yorkshire 54kg.

On the plus side, high temperatures increased the average dry matter of grass back up to 19%, which will have improved potential intakes. With a typical energy content of 11.8 ME this means, on average, grazing could support M + 14 litres although in many places this potential will have been offset by very high temperatures leading to heat stress in cows and reducing forage intakes.

Reasonable levels of fibre in grass and a low acid loading have reduced the risk of low butterfats but, as above, this will have been offset by potential heat stress.

In the USA and Canada, cows are housed to help protect them from heat stress in summer, the barns are equipped with fans which come on at 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) and many have water sprinklers in the feed passages which come on at 72 F (22 degrees C) Last week there will have been many cows in GB grazing outdoors in temperatures of 86 F (30 degrees C). I must emphasise that we are not saying cows should be kept indoors, just that when grazed outdoors in high temperatures, shade and good access to water are very important for cow health and welfare as well as production.

Raw Material Market Update

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A year ago, the EU Referendum result caused UK exchange rates to fall by more than 10% so it was perhaps a surprise that the hung Parliament result of the General Election ‘only’ saw a further drop of 3-4% and that seems to be recovering as Brexit negotiations get underway. Still, even that modest drop puts £7-10 on the price of soya meal.

Lack of rain is an issue in some wheat growing parts of the USA and dryness in Australia is cutting their export surplus. Heat and low rainfall in Spain and Portugal could mean they are looking to import more wheat next winter – traditional markets for UK wheat exports. The UK, fortunately, has had some rain now but wheat prices have still hardened by around £4-£5/t. Whether this is sustainable when, despite the issues outlined above, world wheat stocks are predicted to rise for the 5th consecutive year remains to be seen. Strong demand for wheat in the north from the biofuels industry is a contributing factor inside our trading area.

World soya prices have been steady recently. Rape meal remains expensive compared to distillers grains and sunflower; prices should fall when the new oilseed crop is processed but until then other proteins are better value for money.

The GB sugar beet harvest is predicted to be better this year and prices for beet pulp are reducing; however, soya hulls and palm kernel still look better buys at the moment. Palm fat prices are falling as increased supplies become available but they should reduce further and it could be worth waiting if considering buying fat products in any quantity.

Overall, it looks like little change in feed prices over the next few months.

Protect your cows and milk quality

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Good milk yields from grass possible but beware of low butterfats and heat stress.

The latest weekly figures from Trouw Nutrition show that grass growth increased to 78kg DM/ha/day last week. This was 20kg more than the previous week but still running below the same time last year. Highest average growth rates were seen in Scotland at 86kg, the lowest in Yorkshire at 62 kg DM/ha.

Average energy levels were 11.95 ME, crude protein 23% and dry matter 17.6%, giving a potential milk from forage of M + 13.8 litres. As usual there is huge variation between individual farms, ask your local Carrs Billington nutritionist to test your grazing.

Grass analysis also shows a high acid loading and low fibre index, increasing the risk of low butterfats.

Recent very high temperatures and humidity mean a greatly increased risk of heat stress in dairy cows, especially high yielding ones. A good water supply is vital and ensure cows have access to shade. During times of heat stress, a cow’s appetite decreases and forage intakes in particular, this puts even more pressure on butterfats and increases the risk of acidosis.

Our range of high digestible fibre cakes and blends containing TechTonic rumen conditioner and Actisaf yeast will help to both reduce the risk of acidosis and low butterfats.

Protect your cows and milk quality today with Carrs Billington.