Nutrition of the dairy cow

Correct management of dairy cow nutrition is critical to the success of every dairy farm. The sound management of the dairy cow and her nutrition is fundamental to increasing her productivity, reproduction, health, welfare and, most importantly, the sustainability of the dairy herd.

DPSL consultants teach farmers to observe cows closely and learn to read cow signals. If you respond to these cow signs and manage dairy cow nutrition carefully, you can increase productivity on your dairy farm.

Healthy rumen function in the dairy cow

Dairy farm productivity is determined by what the cows eat. This is more complicated than people think: as cows are ruminants, it is the function and health of the rumen and its population of microflora that really determines what cows can use from their feed.
Getting this complicated process right is the key to stimulating your herd’s productivity.

Pasture-fed dairy herds

Traditional totally pasture-fed cows were generally smaller and likely to be Jersey or Jersey-cross cows. These farms relied on good pasture management principles to achieve good dry matter intake and outcomes, but didn’t give the farmer control of the true nutritional requirements of the cows.

Non-pasture feeds

The use of non-pasture feeds changes the game plan; you really need to know what you are doing if you are to obtain the best results. Getting it wrong, at best, means you just make expensive milk; at worst, it can be fatal for your cows.

Pasture Plus feed systems

Pasture Plus systems are the most common systems throughout New Zealand, although they are often badly operated.
Adding non-pasture feeds to a pasture-fed regime changes:

  • the farm system
  • the pasture nutrient contribution
  • the type of risks faced
  • the target outcomes.

When using dairy cow feed supplements, it is critical that you know what to add and when, and how to integrate that with grazed pasture.

The right combination of feeds at the best time for your stock

DPSL consultants have years of experience and training in the use of all types of feeds in dairy cow diets, at all levels of performance and at every stage of the cow’s annual cycle.
We can advise you on what to feed, when, how much, and with what other feeds, what minerals need to be added, and much more.
Specialised nutritional advice can be modified for specific outcomes:

  • manipulating milk composition
  • growing better replacement heifers
  • achieving maximum milk production per kilogramme of cow liveweight for your system
  • reducing or eliminating specific cow health problems
  • establishing a total mixed ration (TMR) for housed cows.

Balanced dairy cow nutrition needs specialist feed knowledge

As your herd’s intake and performance increases, its rations need fine-tuning so you get value for your money. We can tell you:

  • how much protein or starch is required (or not)
  • what minerals to add
  • how to feed for best results.

Healthy, well-fed dairy herds can withstand difficult conditions and keep on milking.
There are plenty of simple diet design or ration software programs available; combining one of these with your cows, your management, and your facilities, in your environment, is the difficult bit, the crucial part of the process that will control profitability and outcome.

Contact DPSL to order stock feeds

Dairy cow nutrition may include a pasture of annual rye

A dairy cow’s nutritional needs vary throughout the year.