Archive: Farm technical comment Jill Bathgate

Published 15 August 14

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Jill Bathgate milks 145 Holstein Friesian cows in Mid-Lothian and is moving the herd towards a more block-calving pattern and her aim is to make better use of grass in the cows’ diet. Jill farms 260 hectares, with 90 hectares down to grass and 16 hectares to wholecrop.

Grass supply

Average Farm Cover       2,700kg

7-day grass growth          44kg DM/ha/day

Herd grass demand         48kg DM/ha/day

Cow performance

Milk yield                        31 litres/cow/day

Concentrate feed level 2.8 t/cow/year

“We have two groups of cows, the early lactation group is inside at night, on TMR and the late lactation group, including heifers, is at grass day and night,” says Jill. “Although, at this point it’s only my gut feeling, I think the late lactation group has been the most profitable for us this summer. They’ve milked well off grass, looked good and have been a real pleasure to work with. I’ll be doing the calculations soon, hopefully to back this up!

"We have benefited from the dry summer. We haven’t yet got the infrastructure in place to get the cows out to the grass in wet weather but the dry conditions have meant we’ve been able to utilise what’s there.

“On the whole, I’m really pleased with how we’ve managed the system. We’ve had plenty of grass and I’ve still got grass in front of me. Growth has slowed down in the last week or two, and demand is outstripping supply marginally at the moment. Recently, we’ve had some good rain and I’m looking for some more growth soon. If conditions continue like this, I’m going to keep the late lactation cows out as long as possible and not bring everything in at the end of September as usual.

“The grass analysis we’ve been doing, has really highlighted to me which paddocks are underperforming and what the grass is supplying in terms of energy and protein. It’s helped me make decisions about where to buffer feed the early lactation cows with,” Jill concludes.