Poor attention to cow nutrition can result in a loss of up to 1000 litres milk yield per lactation.

But this can often be avoided by identifying and understanding changes in heifer and cow performance.

Warwick Bastard of Kent-based feed manufacturer Lillico Attlee told delegates at the Managing Nutrition for Production and Fertility conference, Crewe, that nutritional management in a large herd was complex.

“In a small herd you have feed supplied by the compounder, that supplied by the producer and what the cow actually eats.

“In a large herd it is more complicated.

You have what the nutritionist recommends, what the owner wants to feed, what the herd manager actually decides to feed, what is actually mixed in the feeder wagon, and what the cow actually eats,” he said.

“It’s not about least cost in dairy diets, but best cost.

Your aim should be to feed for a healthy cow and that way you will get production.

A cow eats for maintenance first each day regardless of production.”

The one single element of any diet commonly overlooked within dairy herds was access to clean, high quality drinking water.

“Make it someone’s responsibility to be solely in charge of water and say you expect them to drink a glass routinely.

It’s got to be that clean to get the best response from cows.”

Stage of lactation and gestation were key factors in determining cows’ nutritional requirements.

“A cow will reach peak yield 40-60 days post-calving; a heifer 60-100 days and at least 75% milk yield of a mature cow.

“Monitor milk fat levels.

When the gap between protein and fat is below 0.4% it can signal acidosis.

It can be affected by dry matter intakes, so ensure sufficient feed and water trough space is available.

Keep fresh feed in front of dairystock, never prevent cows eating for more than four hours and ensure there is sufficient sodium in the diet; if not allow access to rock salt,” advocated Mr Bastard.

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk