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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

To Control Cost and Prevent Overfeeding Know How Much Your Cows Are Eating

Dairy Pipeline: May 2007

Charlie Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist, Nutrition & Forage Quality
(540) 231-3066;

In this time of high feed prices and concern about the environment, it’s a good idea to check your feeding protocol. Feeding closer to your cow’s requirements reduces overfeeding and cost, but how feasible is this? In many herds it is not only reasonable, but a good management practice to consider.

First it is important to know the dry matter intake of the herd or group being evaluated so you can determine the actual amount of nutrients consumed. Dry matter content can be determined in a lab or on the farm. On the farm testing is needed if dry matter intake is calculated weekly or more often. Testers are available that can do this.

Although not exact, lactating cows need approximately one pound of protein and ten grams of phosphorus for each ten pounds of milk produced over sixty pounds. Formulating that amount in the dry matter consumed will many times result in a lower concentration (percent)of the nutrient fed. Routine laboratory measurements of nutrient content of feeds or TMR is necessary to monitor nutrient intake. As changes in dry matter intake occur it is possible to make adjustments in supplementation rates.

If feeding all cows in one group, consideration should be given to higher producers but this should be weighted against extra cost of supplementation. Use bulk tank milk urea nitrogen (MUN) to monitor nitrogen or protein status and adjust protein level, undegradable and degradable protein and rumen available energy if levels are excessive (above 14 mg/dl). Now is a good time to consider more than one feeding group for your lactating cows. Consult your herd nutritionist for more specifics on how to do this without losses of milk production.



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