Optimizing feeding management of dairy cows

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Source: 8 th Annual Dairy Info Day, University of Guelph, Trevor DeVries

The problem is…

 There is more than one ration found on every farm!

◦ There is the one formulated by the nutritionist

◦ There is the one that is delivered to the cows

In a study of herds in Canada the average TMR fed…

 Exceeded TMR formulation for

◦ NEL (+0.05 Mcal/kg)

◦ NFC (+1.5%)

◦ ADF (+0.5%)

◦ Ca (+0.1%)

 Underfed TMR formulation for:

◦ CP (-0.4%)

◦ NDF (-0.7%)

◦ Na (-0.2%)

First step in ensuring cows eat the right ration:

 Ensure that feed delivered mixed matches that which was formulated

◦ How often is feed DM checked?

◦ How often are feed components analysed and rations reformulated?

◦ Are mixing protocols in place?

◦ Are you able to track what is mixed?

How precisely (consistent) are the rations being delivered?

More variability in ration particle size = lower milk yield

 Variability in % long particles

◦ Every 5 point increase

 -1.2 kg/d milk yield

 2.6% reduction in efficiency

Cows love consistency!!!

Another step in ensuring cows eat their feed consistently…

 Make sure feed is mixed and delivered the same way each day

Ensure cows are delivered their ration consistently

 Tools?

◦ SOPs and training

◦ TMR management programs!

◦ Automated feeding systems

The problem is…

 There is more than one ration found on every farm!

◦ There is the one formulated by the nutritionist

◦ There is the one that is delivered to the cows

◦ There is the one that is consumed by the cows

Cows do not always eat what is put in front of them!

The problem is…

 There is more than one ration found on every farm!

◦ There is the one formulated by the nutritionist

◦ There is the one that is delivered to the cows

◦ There is the one that is consumed by the cows

◦ There is the one that is digested by the cows

How the cow eats her feed has an impact on how she digests it…

What does this mean from a feeding management standpoint?

 Manage feeding to ensure cattle are stimulated to access their feed throughout the day

Delivering feed multiple times per day may not always be practical…

Need to ensure feed is present when cows go to the bunk!

Ensuring feed is available allows cows to use their time efficiently!

 41 robotic milked herds in Canada

◦ Frequency of feed push ups (average = 8x/d; range= 2 to 24)

 + 0.1 h/d lying duration per extra 2 push-ups per day

Why is good feeding management even more important for robotic milking herds?

Ensuring feed is available allows cows to use their time efficiently!

 33 robotic milked farms in USA Midwest

◦ +4.9 kg/d of milk for farms with an automated feed pusher vs manual

Automation may minimize problems related to human variability….

We want to minimize the amount of time cows are without feed…

Impact of reduced feed access time increased with overcrowding

 Overcrowding and feed restriction (0100 to 0600 h):

◦ Up to 9 h/d greater subacute rumen acidosis (pH < 5.8)

◦ Reduces NDF digestion rate by up to 50%

Take home messages: 

 Allow cows to eat consistently!

◦ Ensure feed is delivered as formulated and precisely!

◦ Ensure feed is consumed as delivered and in a healthy manner

 Keep feed in front of cows!

 Feed multiple times per day

 Push up feed frequently


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