Dairy farming is very diverse and there is a lot that goes into it. Today, dairy farmers are not only paid based on their milk quantity but also based on the quality. In the Upper Midwest, farmers are paid based on the cheese yield (protein and fat yields) while in the Southeast farmers are paid based on the butterfat content.
This being the case, it’s important to understand what affects milk quality and how to maintain the highest milk quality. While there may be many factors affecting the quality, we shall zero in on dairy cow feeding management in this post.
What is Dairy Cow Feeding Management?
Dairy cow feeds are quite essential in milk production. It is estimated that they take up 50-60% of the total milk production cost. The feeds determine how healthy the animals will be, milk production, reproductive performance and animal lifespan. This being the case, cow feed management needs to be understood by every farmer.
Dairy cow feeding management simply refers to the cows feeding habits, the nutrition content and the feed relevance.
As the cow goes through the different stages, it ought to be fed on the feeds that will give it optimum performance.
Some of these stages include; Lactation, dry stage and in-calf stage.
Feeding dairy cows at different stages
The feeding system adopted should be one that is envisaged to minimize wastage and maximize production.
Generally, most farmers use a concentrate mixture characterized with protein supplements (oil cakes), energy sources (maize, jowar) and laxative feeds (bran).
Tips on Dairy cow’s nutrition and feeds
Ensure that concentrates are fed individually. This helps you ensure that every cow is getting the right amount according to its production requirements.
- Always adhere to regular feeding habits. the concentrate can be fed before or during milking sessions. the daily ration should be divided into two. One half fed in the morning and the other in the evening. when it comes to the roughage, it should also be divided into two. One half may be fed at forenoon after cleaning and watering of cattle and the other half in the evening after milking. Feeding after milking is quite significant as you may have noticed in our post on mastitis as it allows the cow to remain upstanding and let the teat pores close to avoid contamination.
- Its needless to overfeed your dairy cows on concentrate. Overfeeding results in indigestion and off feed.
- If you have plenty of straw, you can include them in your feeding system. 1Kg of dry straw equates to 4-5Kgs of dry grass.
- You can save on concentrates with good roughage quality. 1 Kg of concentrate mixture can be replaced with 6-8kgs of lumen fodder such as Lucerne or cow pea or 20kg of grasses such as nappier or guinea.
- Avoid abrupt change of feeds or feeding system.
- Chop thick-stemmed fodder such as nappier and corn.
- Grind grains to medium degree before feeding them to your cattle.
- Wilt tender and highly moist fodder. You can also mix them with dry straws. The same should apply to legume fodder to avoid indigestion or bloating.
- Feed silage and other feeds that have the tendency of affecting milk flavor after milking. Preferably feed them in the evening.
- Moisten mash concentrate with water. Pellets may be fed as they are.
- The roughage: dry matter ratio for high yield cows should be 60:40.
- Always store your feeds in a well-ventilated place to avoid formation mold that may destroy your feeds.
Feeding dairy cows on the right rations gives the cows the required nutrients necessary in keeping them healthy and at their optimum production levels. You can always formulate your rations at home and with the information provided above you will be at a better position. Always remember that dairy cows feeding systems will vary from one cow to the other.
You should also remember that the cow will need different rations as it goes through different stages. More attention should be given to lactating cows that require 17-18% protein, 18% acid neutral detergent fiber and at least 28% of neutral detergent fiber of the dry matter.
Include calcium phosphorous in grain mix. This should be 1-2% and you will be sure of having high yielding healthy cows.