Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Nutritional requirements of high yielding dairy cows

Contributor(s): Alastair Macrae, Oliver Maxwell

Introduction

  • Milk production in dairy cattle is determined by the genetic potential of the cow, her nutrition, her state of health and the environment.
  • All of these factors are inter-related to a greater or lesser extent, and thus nutrition can have a profound influence on cow health and production.
  • Feed costs also represent the major variable cost in milk production, and the current economic climate in the dairy industry worldwide dictates that minimizing inputs, especially feed costs, and maximizing outputs (milk production) has put an even greater strain on the practical feeding of dairy cattle.
  • Minimizing feed costs involves the greater use of home-grown forages and cheaper concentrate feeds, eg by-products.
  • However, recent genetic selection for increased milk yields has massively increased the nutrient requirements of the modern high-yielding dairy cow, and these factors can lead to imbalances between the supply and demand for nutrients.
  • Thus, nutrition of the modern dairy cow has evolved to become a complex process, utilizing computer programs to give the farmer the lowest cost solution to feeding his dairy cows.
  • There are numerous practical stages from getting a theoretical ration, to ensuring that this ration is fed correctly on farm, to getting the cows to eat it in the quantities they should, and finally getting the cows to utilize the ration efficiently to produce milk.
  • Problems with inadequate nutritional management will result in reduced milk production, poor health, decreased fertility and compromised cow welfare.

Rumen health

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Dry matter intake (DMI)

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Energy

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Protein

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Minerals and trace elements

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Water

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Summary of nutritional requirements

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Wilkinson J M (2004) Nutrition. In: Bovine Medicine: Diseases and Husbandry of Cattle. 2nd edn. Eds: Andrews A H, Blowey R W, Boyd H & Eddy R G. Blackwell Publishing, UK. pp 95-122.
  • McDonald P, Edwards R A, Greenhalgh J F D & Morgan C A (2002) Animal Nutrition. 6th edn. Prentice Hall, UK. ISBN: 978-1408204238.
  • Gerloff B J (2001) Dairy Cattle Nutrition. In: Herd Health: Food Animal Production Medicine. 3rd ed. Ed: Radostits O M. Saunders, USA. pp 435-473.
  • National Research Council (NRC) (2001) Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. 7th edn (revised). ISBN: 978-0309069977.
  • Chamberlain A T & Wilkinson J M (1996) Feeding the Dairy Cow. Chalcombe Publications. ISBN: 978-0948617324.
  • Agriculture and Food Research Council (AFRC) (1993) Energy and Protein Requirements of Ruminants: An Advisory Manual. An Advisory Manual Prepared by the AFRC Technical Committe on Responses to Nutrients. Ed: Geoffrey Alderman. CABI Publishing. ISBN: 978-0851988511.
  • AHDB Dairy. Feeding. Website: https://dairy.ahdb.org.uk.

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