EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT of dry matter intake is the key to maintaining dairy cows that produce more than 12,000 litres of milk, says Canadian nutritionist, Janet Kleinschmidt.

Success, she told delegates at the Semex conference, depended on understanding factors influencing intake and strategies to improve it.

“The goal of most Canadian producers is to optimise production in a cost-effective manner while keeping cows healthy and reproductively efficient. With high yielding dairy cows, nutrition management strategies that optimise intake, in addition to well-designed rations, will determine herd productivity.”

High quality forage was essential and regular analysis was a must, said Mrs Kleinschmidt. Her top clients tested their forage at least once a month and monitored forage dry matter and particle size daily.

“Manipulating dry matter intake can increase milk production and components, minimise the negative energy balance and improve reproductive performance by reaching positive energy balance earlier.”

She said dry matter intake was affected by milk yield (45%), feed management (22%), bodyweight (17%), body condition score (6%), and climate (10%). Ration energy density, cow capacity, cow comfort and housing, and the cow’s behaviour also had an effect.

“High yielding cows need to eat 11-14 meals a day, with each meal lasting about 20 minutes, and feed should be available 24 hours a day. I know this is not practical for most producers, but certainly the maximum time cows should be without feed is 6-8 hours a day.”

Total mixed rations should be 48%-52% DM. Canadian producers added water or wet brewers” grains to the mix to bind it and stop the cows sorting out the bits they wanted.