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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Feed Intake May Limit Milk Produced

Dairy Pipeline: February 2000

Charles C. Stallings Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition
Virginia Tech
(540) 231-4758

Limiting feed to lactating dairy cows will adversely affect milk production compared to feeding for ad libitum intake. To demonstrate this I balanced a ration for 17% protein and .77 Megacalories of net energy, similar to many 1 group TMR mixes fed on dairy farms in Virginia. If 40 lbs. of dry matter is consumed per cow per day there is enough protein to produce 70 lbs. of 3.5% milk and energy to produce 68 lbs. If that 1300 lb. cow consumed 50 lbs. of dry matter she could have produced approximately 90 lbs. of milk. A rule of thumb is that for each extra lb. of dry matter a cow consumes she will produce an extra 3 lbs. of milk. Therefore, it is worth the extra effort to get the extra feed into cows especially those that are relatively fresh and capable of producing more. Feed intake may be limited by inadequate feed bunk space especially in herds that are confined. For higher producing herds many times 2 linear feet or more bunk space is available. Remember as herd production increases so does need for feed. Many herds have added cows and production to the point that bunk space may be an issue. Overcrowding can be a major concern and attention to feeding management and intake is important to ensure no depression in consumption. Having palatable forages and other feeds present in the proper amounts is important in maximizing intake. Poor quality forages will likely result in depressed intakes. Also cow comfort is important and cows should be able to get off their feet between eating and milking. Stall design and maintenance are important factors in making a comfortable cow. Remember that extra lb. of dry matter or two lbs. of 50% dry matter TMR can produce an extra 3 pounds of milk. Pushing up feed is not so bad when this is considered.

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