Richard Waters, Ruminant Technical Development Manager from Harpers Feeds says the key to maximising performance at grazing will be making sure cows are fed well to ensure they produce to their potential effectively, making full use of the diet. This will mean that the quality of purchased supplements is as important as cost.

“Dairy farmers need to focus on several key areas as they turn cows out. The first is to make sure milk price is maximised within the current contract terms. In the South West many farmers are on constituent -based but whatever your contact you are on, you need to feed to deliver good milk quality.”

He says the second area is to make sure fertility is maintained, pointing out that poor reproductive performance will knock production later in the year. Every year, we see herds get to housing in the autumn with cows that are empty due to insufficient feeding while grazing, leading to increased culling rates and greater losses.


“Finally, the focus must be achieving these while maximising the contribution from grazed grass. This does not mean turning cows out and stopping supplementary feeding or feeding a low specification feed. In the same way you will work to maximise the quality of grazing, so you need to ensure the quality of supplementary feed will support your production objectives.”

As grazed grass is not a perfectly balanced feed for dairy cows, getting the most from grazing requires precise supplementation to balance the grass, to rectify nutrient deficiencies and reduce the impact of excess levels of nutrients.

“To help maximise production from grass it is important to consider rumen flow. Grazed grass contains plenty of chemical fibre but very little physically effective fibre, meaning energy sourcespassthrough the rumen quickly. To improve rumen efficiency, make sure supplementary feeds contain physically effective fibre to reduce passage rate through the rumen. Also ensure feeds are not high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates.”

Richard says one of the most important steps is to pay close attention to the type of protein in the concentrate, in particular, limiting the use of rapeseed as it has the same oil profile as fresh grass.

He explains that protein can be split into three categories based on how it is used by the rumen – by-pass protein (MPB), the metabolisable protein supply based on the amount of degradable nitrogen in the rumen (MPN) and the metabolisable protein supply based on the amount of rumen degradable sugars, starches, fibre etc. (MPE).

Most dairy compounds supply more MPN than MPE which can make problems at grazing worse. He says the Harpers FiMLAC range is specifically formulated to balance protein at grass, with a unique ‘reverse ratio’ of protein where the MPN is lower than the MPE.

To further help improve efficiency of protein use, the FiMLAC range also contains Novatan, a blend of essential oils which has a direct effect on protein digestion in the rumen. It reduces the production of surplus ammonia in the rumen leading to lower blood urea. This in turn helps maintain a good urinary pH, leading to better conception rates at grass.


“The other thing farmers must keep a close eye out for is signs of Sub-Acute Rumen Acidosis (SARA).

“Maintaining rumen health and ensuring a stable rumen pH is of vital importance when cows are grazing spring pastures where the grass will be high in sugar but very low in fibre. The high sugar content makes the grass highly fermentable. This, coupled with reduced fibre levels, can result in sub-optimal rumen pH leading to an increased risk of acidosis and milk fat depression, potentially hitting milk prices too.

“With SARA, prevention is the only strategy, so we have always included a rumen buffer in our FiMLAC grazing range to give cows a helping hand to maintain rumen pH at optimum levels.

“By focusing on compound feeds that complement grass it will be possible to optimise rumen function, maintaining milk yields, quality and fertility at grazing,” Richard concludes.