Robert Mallett - Grazing three-times-a-day milking cows on Christmas day

Published 16 January 15

Keeping grass covers down and feeding a high-quality cheap feed were the main reasons for Robert Mallett to out-graze the low yielders from his three-times-a-day milking herd on Christmas day.

“Apart from a few short periods, the grass has continued to grow this winter and I’m keen to keep covers down to help ensure quality next spring. We had cows out until Boxing Day but the wet conditions meant we had to bring them inside,” says Robert, milking 220 autumn-calving Holsteins, with an average yield of 10,600 litres, in north Wiltshire on heavy clay near the Thames.

Robert Mallett

Image 1 Robert's cows out grazing on Christmas Eve

“It also helped us as we’re a bit short of grass silage this year and I have every confidence in the quality of the grass, even at this time of year. I put the cows in at covers of about 2,700kg DM/ha and came out at about 1,500 to 1,700kg DM/ha. That’s 1,000kg of DM/ha I’ve got for very little cost.

“We have grazed 18ha since the end of October and saved ourselves about 40 tonnes of TMR by having these 60 low yielders out this autumn/winter,” Robert adds. “The dry cows had to be housed first as they damaged the grass by hanging around the gate, while the milkers would quite happily go out and graze. I think it is a myth that Holsteins won’t graze, they just need training and a good cover of quality grass in front of them.

“We hope to be out grazing again by mid-March and over the summer the low yielders graze and get no buffer. We aim for 16kg DM from the grass, using pre-mowing to help maintain intakes and quality. Although the cows were probably only getting 4kg DM by the end of December, it’s still a cheap high quality feed that otherwise would be wasted. The group averaged 30 litres, and yields only rose about 1 litre a day when we replace the grazing with a TMR diet which costs about 65p/cow/day.”