6 September 1996

Maximising dry matter intake is way to profits

FEEDING to secure high dry matter intakes is one key to maximising yields profitably when supplying milk on a liquid contract.

David Beever of CEDAR, University of Reading, says good cows can eat up to 28kg of dry matter (DM) a day, but they must be offered high quality forage to achieve such targets.

When feeding grass silage aim for high quality and high dry matter, adds Prof Beever.

Replacing a proportion of the grass with alternatives such as maize will further increase intakes and hence yields from forage. Legumes also have a beneficial effect on cow intakes because they are broken down rapidly in the rumen despite often having relatively high fibre contents. White or red clover included in swards will improve DM intakes of pasture.

"Alternatively, grow lucerne, which can increase cow dry matter intakes by 4kg a day when fed in a mixed forage diet," he says. Fodder beet also increases DM intakes.

But palatability of any feed depends on keeping it fresh and cool. Good clamp face and trough management is needed.

"For high intakes it may be worth feeding out the ration twice a day. Cows eat more feed when you keep them cleaning it up.

"Provide plenty of feeding space to cater for the timid cows," he says. "And ensure the feeding area is well designed with no corners where the more timid cows can get bullied."

When cows are not fed a total mixed ration easy-feeding is preferable to self-feeding. It increases intake and reduces wastage, says Prof Beever. But the best way to feed concentrates is likely to be through a total mixed ration or with out-of-parlour feeders.

"Cows like 10-12 meals a day, but also have 10 hours or so a day which they devote to rumination and resting. Consequently it is important to keep fresh feed in front of them at all times."

He advises feeding a good mix of concentrates that provides a range of rapidly fermentable and slowly digested carbohydrates.

"Ground wheat that is rapidly fermentable may be complemented by caustic-treated wheat or maize grain based products that are digested more slowly in the rumen," says Prof Beever.

"Cows also need good quality protein, but get the rumen degradable protein right before adding by-pass protein."

Lastly for high yielders, fat inclusion in the diet is one way to increase total energy density of the ration. But the source of dietary fat must be palatable and provide less than 15% of the ME (MJ/kg) fed, otherwise intakes may be adversely affected.


&#8226 Increase feed intake – daily minimum 4% of bodyweight.

&#8226 Supply a concentrated diet – keep fat inclusions under 5% of total DM.

&#8226 Use forage mixtures to improve intake and rumen efficiency.

&#8226 Feed it fresh and regularly.

&#8226 Balance rumen protein – a range of protein degradability is essential.

&#8226 Ensure sufficient bypass protein – 20-30% of protein supply.

&#8226 Ensure a good water supply – minimum of four litres for every kg DMI.

&#8226 Create feed groups – group by yield and keep heifers separate.

High dry matter intakes are one of the keys to maximising yields, says Prof David Beever of CEDAR, University of Reading (inset).