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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

What Are You Going to Give Your Dry Cows for Christmas?

Dairy Pipeline: December 2008

M. Chase Scott, Extension Agent
Southwest Virginia
(276) 223-6040

As cooler weather moves into Virginia, a greater percentage of dry cow rations will shift away from pasture to more purchased/ stored feeds. Although there are exceptions, Virginia dry cows tend to be the forgotten family members of our dairy herds. They are not being milked or grown and consequently the value of dry cow management is often underestimated. But, just like Olympic athletes, dry cows should be pampered and prepared for their upcoming lactation. An old saying that I grew up hearing was, “We’ll feed that to the dry cows”. This statement often followed a poor decision related to mature hay or hay baled too wet. No, dry cows don’t have the same high nutrient requirements that milk cows do, but this does not mean we should be feeding them trash. How does your dry cow ration compare to the NRC dry cow requirements found in the table?

Minimum Nutrient Recommended
  Far-off Dry Cow Close-Up High Producing Cow
Dry Matter intake, lbs/day 28 26 54
Crude Protein (%) 12 14-15 16-19
NEL (Mcal/lb DM) .057 - 0.62 .063 - 0.72 .075 - 0.78

So what should you give your dry cow for Christmas? See the wish list below.

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