The best way for dairy farmers to reduce their production costs per litre is to set up a paddock grazing system. This allows you to allocate the correct amount of grass to your herd each day – just as you would do in the winter – and replace expensive bought-in feeds with cheap grass.
Putting your cows out to grass is not about “kicking them out”; it’s about replacing expensive bought-in proteins and conserved forage with cheap, nutritious grass. By paddock grazing, you will make sure your cows are getting the right amount of feed AND you will be allowing your grass to maximise its growth over the season. Set stocking reduces production and favours weed species. Rotational grazing increases production and favours the most vigorous grass species.
A vital part of setting up a paddock grazing system is ensuring that you have good cow tracks. The best tracks are firm and free-draining , with no loose stones. A layer of sand-filled Astro cushions the cows’ feet and protects against lameness.
It is important to view the Astro not merely as the top layer in itself; the Astro contains sand and it is the sand that should be viewed as the top layer of your track. The Astro is there to keep the sand in place, provide extra cushioning and form a membrane to prevent stones coming to the surface.
Given that each case of lameness will cost a dairy farmer around £180 (source DairyCo) it is definitely worth spending money on improving your cow tracks. For every £1,000 you invest in Astro, you only need to stop 6 cows from going lame and it has paid for itself.