Dairy farmers wanted
Over the last 15 years a number of large-scale research projects have (jointly funded by AgriSearch and DARD) been undertaken by AFBI Hillsborough on Northern Ireland farms.
These programmes, which have involved the beef, dairy and sheep sectors have provided a highly successful approach to addressing key issues for the Northern Ireland agriculture industry.
AgriSearch, in partnership with AFBI and with co-funding obtained under DARD's Research Challenge Fund, is commencing a new study on feeding strategies for dairy cows in early lactation and would like to hear from farmers who are interested in becoming involved
High yielding dairy cows are unable to eat enough immediately post calving to support the rapid increase in milk yield which takes place.
As such, they frequently experience a prolonged period of negative energy balance which can have adverse effects on cow health and fertility.
While high levels of purchased concentrate feed are normally offered to dairy cows in early lactation in an attempt to minimise this energy deficit, this may lead to digestive problems and may actually promote milk production, further increasing negative energy balance.
This new project aims to identify the merits of a novel approach to feeding the high-yielding dairy cow, namely substantially reducing concentrate feed levels in early lactation in an attempt to 'switch off' milk production.
This may reduce the extent of negative energy balance experienced and the risk of digestive problems by encouraging cows to eat more forage.
Results from two studies conducted at AFBI Hillsborough suggest that diets aimed at reducing the acceleration in milk yield in early lactation (low protein diets and reduced concentrate levels) have the potential to improve rumen health and reduce the risk of digestive disorders, and to reduce the extent of negative energy balance in early lactation.
Furthermore, there was no detrimental effect of offering reduced concentrate levels on total dry matter intake, milk yield or milk composition.
AgriSearch says it needs to build on initial work by undertaking a study on commercial dairy farms.
It is anticipated that approximately 400 dairy cows will be enrolled within the study, 200 cows on each nutritional strategy.
Using on-farm resources to increase animal number will allow these effects to be identified, if they exist.
In addition, the on-farm approach being adopted will also allow the contrasting nutritional strategies to be examined under commercial farm conditions, where forage quality and management regimes will differ, compared to those used within the earlier Hillsborough studies.
AgriSearch wants to hear from progressive dairy farmers interested in participating in this project and becoming involved as part of a research team.
As technology transfer is a key component of the project, the participating farmers will also have the opportunity to present the results of the study to visiting groups at their farms.
Any dairy farmer interested in participating in this project should contact Jason Rankin, AgriSearch on 028 8778 9770 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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