Bet­ter milk from our 96% grass fed Ir­ish cows

Irish Examiner - Farming - - DAIRY SECTOR -

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

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