Trouw Nutrition Ireland has been carrying out a programme of grass quality analysis with the co-operation of 15 local 'monitor' farms within the catchment areas of 7 of our feed customers in the South West of Ireland.

19 June 2017

Most milk production in Ireland is and will continue to be produced from grass but, while the benefits of grass as a feed are well documented and known, it is a very variable feed which has implications for potential milk yield, milk composition, fertility and Nitrogen excretion. Trouw Nutrition created the project with the aim of achieving a better understating of the factors affecting this variability and the implications that can arise as a result of this unpredictability.

The programme requires that each of the farms sends a sample of pregrazing grass to the Trouw Nutrition lab for grass quality analysis each Monday. After examination and testing, the lab reports information such as Dry Matter, Fibre, Energy, Protein, Sugars, Free Nitrates and Oils as well as additional detail on other parameters - Rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (RFC), Rumen Unsaturated Fatty Acids (RUFAL) and Nutriopt Fermentable Energy Protein Balance (NFEPB), Fibre Index (FI) and Acid Load (AL) - which can be utilised by our 'NutriOpt' proprietary  precision nutrition system.

Grass Watch Report

Following the analysis, each week the results are inputted into a centralised 'Grass Watch' report, which includes information an average, minimum and maximum Grass Quality Analysis for all 15 monitor farms, as well as the predicted milk production (i.e. from grass only), the concentrate supplementation required for different milk yields, grass growth, energy levels and protein levels over time, an indicator of butterfat risk and energy protein balance calculations.

To make this analysis more relevant and properly useful however we also needed to monitor the effect of grass management on the Grass Quality Analysis and then the effect of that Grass Quality Analysis on the performance of the herd. To help achieve this, each week the farm also records information on milk production factors (milk yield, milk fat, milk protein, milk urea), diet (quantity of grass intakes, level of concentrate feeding) and Grassland Management, including fertiliser application, grass covers and rotation length.

The project has been successful in helping to track and illustrate the variation in grass quality over the grazing season, including the effect of grass growth rates and weather conditions on the grass quality. More importantly however it has been hugely interesting to study how this varying grass quality affects milk production, milk composition etc and to test if any farm management factors such as concentrate supplementation etc can influence this grass quality.