Filling the feed gap

A tough wet autumn & winter has seen most farms going into calving with pasture covers  below target.

Now is the time to determine how much of a deficit you have for the coming spring, which will give you the opportunity to source sufficient supplement now, or contract enough to fill the void. It is quite easy to calculate what the dry matter deficit is, for example:

Target pasture cover for 1st of July = 2200 kgDM/ha                                                            Actual pasture cover at 1st of July = 1800 kgDM/ha                                                                  Feed deficit = 400 kgDM/ha   

So for a 100 Ha farm the deficit is (100 * 400) = 40,000 kgDM/ha 

You know that this feed is missing from the system so now you can do something about it. The next question is how much can you afford to pay for it? 

 How much you can afford to pay for supplements depends a lot on what feeding system will be used and the amount of utilisation.  

Feed out on pasture

   Feed Pads

   In shed Feeding       

60-75% utilisation  

  80-85% utilisation

  90-95% utilisation 


Dairy NZ uses the figure of 5% of milk solids price for supplement feeds, which assumes an 85% utilisation. In fact, you may be able to afford up to 6% of milksolids price if the utilisation is >90%.  

When an absolute deficit exists, the cost per kgDM can be as high as 7% of the milk price. This is because the degree of substitution will be minimal. E.g., if you only have enough feed available to feed milkers 12 kgDM in early lactation, and their requirement (or capacity) is 18kgDM, then there won’t be any substitution. As more feed is available for milk production, the return to you is higher.