Feeding at Farm level

The late spring, alongside rising feed costs, has meant that the options for grazing milking cows, has been a stop start scenario up until now. But this will change in the next week or two. Grass nutritional quality and regrowth has been a struggle, from the east to west of the country, but over the next fortnight, many cows will have grass as the major portion of forage in their diet.  

As with every other spring, economics will dictate that those cows – which are safely pregnant – and where facilities and conditions allow, should be grazing grass, in order to reduce feed costs. 

Where high yielding, freshly calved cows have access to good quality silage, or where the grazing platform is insufficient for the herd size, this group of cows should remain on a silage-based diets to maintain performance and increase the probability of pregnancy.

Managing performance at grass

Whether your herd is fully, partially or zero grazed, grass will prove to be the most cost-effective feed source, when managed correctly. At the mercy of weather conditions - as the season progresses - there can be huge variations in the available dry matter, protein, energy and fibre levels in grass. Which can all affect cow production and health and it is crucial that there is a constant supply of nutrients, if performance is going to be maximised this summer. Luckily, there are a number of management tools, that can help gain control and make the most from our grass. 

‘Grass-check’ data, collated by AFBI, can provide local data on grass growth and composition on a weekly basis and can be used as a guide to help budget grass and balance diets, throughout the season. 

Summer Diets

To compliment any system this summer, Thompsons’ Technical Team have formulated a range of diets to ensure that cow performance, health and fertility are managed and maintained all season. There are many ‘tried and tested’ rations that customers will naturally go to, but there are also new additions and the emphasis on lower protein rations, to balance, young, leafy grass swards. There are compound nuts ranging from 15% to 19% protein, to meet those demands.

Energy is almost always a limiting factor in housed or grazed cows, therefore cereals are at the forefront of the rations, with Maize – the highest energy value cereal – being the main ingredient of all summer rations. This creates a ration that is highly glucogenic, maximising energy intakes and helping to capture and utilise the rapidly fermentable protein available in grass. 

Fibre sources from sugar beet pulp and soya hulls, provide (much needed) sources of highly digestible fibre to also compliment high quality leafy pastures. To ensure a smooth transition to a more grass-based diet, a link ration is available which has been designed to facilitate the trouble-free movement from a silage-based diet to one with a high grass inclusion. If butterfat percentages decline, there are also rations available which include C16 protected fat, to aid the production of fatty acids for uptake in the mammary gland. 

Adding Value


Some rations within the summer dairy range, will also contain the Zinpro Performance Minerals’ Availa4 mineral pack, which contains rumen protected zinc, copper, manganese and cobalt. This locally known, tried and tested product, has been providing benefits to Northern Ireland’s dairy cows for many years. Including the improvement of hoof health, fertility and somatic cell counts, which ultimately boosts overall herd health and performance.


Unique to Thompsons, this rumen buffering product, Rumitech365 has played a key role in the reduction of sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA), in both grazing and indoor systems. SARA was found to be a significant issue in grazing cows by O’Grady et al in 2008 and since then further research carried out by University College Dublin, found that cows grazing lush pastures had sub-optimal rumen pH levels. But when Rumitech365 was included in the compound nut of the cows grazing this type of pasture, an improvement was seen in their rumen pH and consequently milk yields increased by 1.7kg/cow/day. Milk fat and protein also benefitted as more stable rumen conditions allowed the rumen microbes to work more effectively. 

With more high yielding cows having grass included in their diets, they are more susceptible to SARA and the need for Rumitech365 becomes essential to optimise cow health and performance. 

To find out how the Thompsons’ summer dairy range could make the most out of your summer system, contact your local Thompsons’ representative, send us a DM through our socials @ThompsonFeeds or give us a ring on; 028 9035 1321.


Posted 26,04,21 by allison.

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