WITH grass protein levels exceptionally high this autumn, Northumberland dairy farmers are being urged to carefully balance diets.

“Protein levels have risen following some rainfall in late August and are typically around 24 percent at the moment, but a few samples have topped 30 percent in parts of the country,” says Mark Holliday, ruminant nutritionist at Carr’s Billington, which has a Country Store in Hexham. He warns producers that too much protein could result in an energy deficit in cows causing them to lose condition, but he states this can be controlled by assessing and adjusting diets.

Mark recommends that before any changes are made grass samples are taken and analysed. “Protein levels in grass will vary between farms and even fields, so it’s well worth taking grass samples to obtain an accurate representation of grazing.”

These results can be used to correctly modify concentrate feeds and forage allowance. “To avoid worsening the energy deficit issue, once protein levels are known, concentrates with a reduced protein level can be fed if necessary.”

“Buffer feeding silage will also help to deliver the nutritional balance needed to combat excess protein from grass. If silage is very dry, consider adding water to help with digestibility and encourage intakes.”

He adds it is important to note that dietary changes will affect the rumen which in turn could have a negative impact on milk yield, milk quality and fertility. “Adding Actisaf yeast in cakes and blends will help to improve rumen function and stability, particularly at a time of year when the diet can alter on a regular basis, for example different silage clamps are opened and new forages such as wholecrop are introduced. Cows might be kept inside at night, or just grazing for a few hours a day. All of these will alter the conditions in the rumen for the microflora living there.”