Heading towards late lactation in the dairy cow

The main aim on farm during autumn should be to maximise grass utilisation, while supplementing the herd with the correct feed during late lactation; while also starting to plan ahead where grassland management.

The main aim on farm during autumn should be to maximise grass utilisation, while supplementing the herd with the correct feed during late lactation; while also starting to plan ahead where grassland management.

Body Condition during late lactation

Late lactation is the optimum time to manipulate body condition. Cows should be in a positive energy balance and have been confirmed pregnant by this time, and changes in body condition can be made very efficiently. Ideally BCS would remain static during the dry period, with any changes in BCS being achieved during this period pre-drying off. 

If cows have a BCS < 3.0, energy intake needs to increase. Failure to replenish energy reserves will limit milk production during the next lactation. If BCS exceeds 3.75, energy intakes are too high and should be reduced to avoid excessive fattening.

Autumn Grassland Management 

The idea of building grass is to have a bank of grass on the farm in the autumn to be able to extend the grazing season (each extra day at grass in autumn is worth €1.80/cow/day), while closing off the farm in preparation for early next spring. 

  • Rotation length should be extended from 10th August to reach 30 days by Sept 1st
  • Make all land on the milking platform available for grazing to extend the rotation
  • Remove surplus livestock from the grazing platform to reduce demand 
  • Increase supplementation to reduce demand 
  • Surplus paddocks should be removed in August, depending on growth. Removing paddocks after the first week of September should be avoided if possible
  • If farm cover is below target at any stage, take quick action to bring it back on course
  • It is important to achieve residuals of 4 cm to stimulate growth throughout the winter and avoid the carryover of dead material over the winter and into the following spring.

By achieving the right farm cover at the right time, decisions are easier to make. Relevant targets to adhere to include; Target farm closing cover of 600-700 kg DM/ha, Target average opening farm cover of 950kg DM/ha on Feb 1st.

Feeding concentrates during late lactation 

The response to feeding concentrates alongside autumn grass is 1 litre of milk for every 1kg concentrates fed. If grazing full-time, 2-3kg of a high-energy concentrate is adequate during this period. If silage is introduced into the diet, concentrate feeding levels will depend on forage quality.

Feeding during this period: 

  • Feed to extend rotation and improve grass utilisation 
  • Need to slow down your rotation and build a wedge of grass ahead of the cows to achieve target covers for spring
  • Feed to supply minerals and Cal Mag to prevent Grass Tetany – Leafy grass in autumn is high in potash; therefore Mg is required to prevent Tetany. 
  • Maintain milk lactose levels – underfeeding causing an energy restriction can subsequently reduce milk lactose levels
  • Maintain milk production and constituents 
  • Increase BCS before drying off

GAIN Autumn Extender

GAIN Autumn Extender Nut is specifically designed to help you extend late lactation dairy cow performance into the autumn. GAIN Autumn Extender Nut (available in 14% or 16% Crude Protein), is suitable for cows at grass. Derived from high level of digestible fibre and a balanced level of starch, aiding rumen fermentation, GAIN Autumn Extender also includes the feed additive Agolin. Agolin has been proven to increase milk yield, milk protein yield and diet efficiency; while also increasing milk yield. 

It is also imperative during this stage in lactation that the cow is provided with all necessary vitamins and minerals, to avoid reduced milk production – GAIN Autumn Extender Nut contains the full spectrum of essential elements to support milk production. For optimal health and fertility, it contains Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium and Magnesium. 

GAIN Autumn Extender Nut is ideal for dairy herds which are outdoors both day and night as it will balance and support highly digestible and fermentable grass. Due to its low substitution effect, Autumn Extender encourages the cow to maximise grass intake and will help improve cow body condition as dairy herds approach the dry period.

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