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Reduction in the Crude Protein content of Concentrates fed to Grazing Dairy cows/Livestock


All Nitrate Derogation farmers should now be aware that there are reduced levels of crude protein permissible in concentrates fed to grazing livestock from 1st April to the 15th September, 2020. Teagasc advisors Mark Coyne and Jim Moyles have advice and information.

This measure was introduced to reduce the levels of excess protein in animal diets.  A 1% reduction in the CP of dairy rations could potentially reduce Nitrogen excretions by 1% and also result in a 5% reduction in GHG and ammonia emissions.  To understand the rationale behind this measure, there are a number of facts that must be considered.

Firstly, the level of crude protein in grazed grass is normally well over 20% during this summer grazing period.

Secondly, grazed grass typically makes up 75-90% of the daily dry matter intake of grazing animals at this time of the year.

And finally, we know that the animals with the highest overall dietary crude protein requirements are both young, growing animals and lactating dairy cows.  Young stock need 13-15% protein in their diets, lactating cows approximately 15-17%.

Considering all of the above, it is easy to understand that a lack of protein in the diets of grazing animals over the summer months is not a problem.  In fact, the opposite is more likely the case, with dairy farmers frequently reporting high milk urea levels in their bulk milk tests.

From April 1st to Sept 15th 2020, the maximum permissible level of Crude Protein in concentrate feeds to compliment grazing livestock at grass is 16%.  From 2021, this will be decreased by one percentage point to 15%.

If we are unfortunate enough to experience a period of either prolonged rainfall or drought conditions, necessitating animals being supplemented with silage, then higher CP % concentrates will be allowed.  This can be certified by your advisor.

Appropriate concentrate records will be required as part of the Nitrates records which must be submitted by the 31st March each year, both in the case of farmers using concentrates and straights.

In summary, grazed grass more than adequately meets animal requirements for crude protein.  Excess protein in diets are both a risk to water quality and a cause of GHGs, while being an unnecessary financial cost to you, the farmer.