Smart feeding strategies lift daily milk production

Milking order plays a major role in the amount of milk produced from pasture-based dairy cows. 

New research from the Dairy Feedbase program at Ellinbank Research Farm has revealed a substantial difference in milk production within the herd, between cows that are milked first in a pasture based grazing system versus cows milked towards the end. 

The research team found that there was a daily difference of up to 5-6 Litres of milk per cow between early lactation cows that arrived at the dairy first for milking versus cows that arrived towards the tail end. Believed to be the result of lower quality and quantity of pasture available to the later returning cows.

Jindivick farmer Chris Bagot runs a pasture-based system on his farm close to Warragul in Victoria, milking 550 cows in a predominantly spring calving based system. “I’m a big believer in supporting this type of industry research to help bridge that pathway from research to adoption”, said Chris. 

He partnered up with the team at Ellinbank to assess whether the results they had observed in the research environment there were also evident on his commercial farm. Preliminary results from Mr Bagot’s herd showed a difference of over 3 Litres per cow in daily milk yield between the first and last quarters of the herd to return to the paddock after milking. 

Looking into the disparity in milk yield, the research team at Ellinbank examined how use the same total resources on farm – pasture and supplementary feeds – with altered allocation across the herd, could improve overall milk production.  

To counteract the lack of ungrazed pasture for cows milked later in the milking order, paddocks were divided into segments, reserving fresh pasture for the cows arriving back later.  When tested with early lactation herds, this option showed an increase in daily milk yield of 1.1 L/cow.

The research team also tested an alternative mitigation strategy, allocating the same amount of grain to the herd overall, but providing more grain to the cows at the end of milking and less grain to the cows at the start of milking. This method of altered grain allocationshowed an overall daily milk production increase of 0.8 L/cow in early lactation cows across the whole herd.

Chris was encouraged by the results of the research from Ellinbank. “From my perspective as a farmer, I’m interested in maximising the amount of milk I can produce from the same set of resources. If I can feed the same amount of supplementary feed for the total herd each day, and still achieve my target post grazing residuals, but also produce a few hundred extra litres per day by just manipulating the way the herd accesses the paddock, or the amount of grain each cow gets, it’s an attractive proposition.”
The results of this work are very promising, especially for larger herds or herds where the overall duration of milking is longer - the potential benefit of implementing this research on farm is significant. 

For more information on the Smart Feeding program and other research outcomes from Dairy Feedbase, visit our Dairy Feedbase webpage or contact your regional office.


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