Ten Dairy Cow Nutrition Notes
1.Dairy cows will eat 8 to 10 meals a day. Average feeding time will be about 20 minutes when fed a TMR.
2.Cows are experts at sorting the ration. They can use the tongue to skillfully find all the grain. A TMR should have at least 45 percent moisture.
3.Watch the cows while they are resting. Dairy cows need to chew their cud 50 to 60 percent of the day. The cud chewing provides saliva which buffers the rumen.
4.Milk fat test depression like 3.0 percent fat suggests a ration with not enough “effective cud chewing” fiber. Dairy cows with rumen acidosis decrease dry matter intake often associated with loose, foul-smelling manure
5.Desirable cow manure should splat on the concrete and look like “mashed potatoes."
6.Provide dairy cows access to feed right after milking. This keeps them standing and allows the teat end to contract tight.
7.Most dairy rations should have 40 percent or more forage in order to ensure adequate rumen function.
8.Foot care affects feed intake. Cows with sore feet do not get up and eat as often. Laminitis score of 3.5 to 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 will result in a 10 to 40 percent decrease in milk production.
9.Dry cow nutrition sets the stage for the following lactation.
Dry cow diet should contain a low calcium forage such as grassy hay, wheat hay or corn silage. Subclinical milk fever can reduce rumen motility and result in a decreased feed intake the first week after calving. The result is a suppressed immune function and “dead cow syndrome.” Make the same observation for retained placentas, which is nutrition related.
10.Lastly, now is the time to be observing for estrus if you wish to get them bred and calve next fall. The breeding-eligible cows should have a body condition score of at least a 2.5 out of 5.0 scoring system. Thin cows do not show estrus as readily.
A goal is to not drop more than one condition score from calving to breeding. In the ideal world we would like to calve at 3.25 to 3.5, drop no more than to 3.0 and return to 3.5.
Body weight loss is difficult to minimize with high producing dairy cows in the 0 to 60 day lactation period.
Barry Steevens is a Universityof Missouri Dairy Professor and Extension Specialist.