14 March 1996

Are your high merit cows getting the DM they need?

EXPRESSING the genetic potential of high genetic merit cows needs maximum dry matter intake.

Genus national nutritionist Diana Allen told the audience at the Brooksby dairy conference in Leicestershire that numerous factors affected intake including body weight, milk yield and stage of lactation. But, access to feed, cow comfort which affects cudding time, and the palatability and digestibility of the ration were also essential.

"You need high quality forages to get maximum dry matter intake. It is hard to get high energy density rations with low quality forages. When you have low quality forage and need to supply more energy from concentrate it is not ideal for the cows digestion or your pocket," she said.

The optimum dry matter (DM) content of the ration is 50-60%, and both above and below this cow intake will fall.

"Adding water to a complete diet over 65% DM often improves intake and milk yield. Then once the ration is in the rumen the cow drinks enough water to raise the moisture content of the rumen to its optimum, 80-85%," said Mrs Allen.

Mrs Allen also advised taking extra care feeding dry cows in the last two weeks before calving. This could increase the speed with which animals maximised their DM intakes after calving.

"It is very important to keep intakes high before calving. Encourage cows to eat and offer a small amount of milking cow ration to introduce some of the post-calving diet," said Mrs Allen.

Adding water to a complete diet over 65% DM often improves intake and milk yield, said Genus national nutritionist Diana Allen.


&#8226 Palatable and digestible rations encourage high intakes.

&#8226 High quality forages essential.

&#8226 Encourage dry cows to eat before calving.