Better milk from our 96% grass fed Irish cows
Only 10% of global milk production originates from grazing-based systems. However, in Ireland, grass from grazing pasture land continues to be an important source of feed for dairy cows. “It is estimated that 96% of the diet on a fresh matter basis and 82% on a dry matter basis of the typical Irish cow diet comes from forage,” said Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc animal and grassland researcher, at the Teagascorganised Grass-fed Dairy Conference last week in Naas, Co Kildare.
The benefits of grass-fed dairy systems on the nutritional composition and properties of milk and dairy products were highlighted at the conference.
Ms Hennessy said 74 to 77% of the Irish dairy cow diet comes from grazed pasture, on a fresh matter basis.
In her joint conference presentation with researchers Laurence Shalloo and Brian Moran, she said there is a big increase internationally in pasture-fed claims for dairy products, and Ireland now needs to place a claim around the provenance of the diet of Irish dairy cows.
The pasture claims relate to the growing consumer interest in purchasing milk based on the composition of the cow’s diet and the time they spend grazing. However, there is generally little, if any, verification of the claims being made around the world, and there is little, if any, oversight on the provenance of the claims.
Te a g a s c h a s f u r t h e r expanded the scope of its research in this area, to provide additional scientifically validated compositional data to further differentiate dairy products coming from a grassfed diet compared to a total mixed ration diet.
“Our national approach to estimating a cow’s diet has the potential to be replicated for more countries around the world,” said Ms Hennessy. “This would benefit the global consumer by allowing them make more informed decisions around the typical diet of dairy cows, facilitating them to make more informed decisions when they purchase dairy products in the future. “Over the long term, it may also increase the overall value of dairy products for milk suppliers and processors.” Ms Hennessy said: “Our analysis showed that the average annual cow feed intake on a fresh matter basis ranged from 22.7 tonnes in 2013 to