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Basic Feeding Practices More Important than Balancing to Nth Decimal

December 12, 2019


Jim Dickrell


Basic feeding practices, such as correct mix times, on-time feed delivery and push-ups between feeding, are far more important to dairy cattle nutrition than balancing rations to the last one-hundredth of a percent for metabolizable protein or energy.


That message was again bore out by a feeding study in Pennsylvania that measured milk production, feed intake and feed efficiency in 22 herds in 2017 and 2018.


The seven high profit herds in the study were averaging about 84 lb of fat corrected milk with intakes of 54 to 57 lb of dry matter.  The seven medium profit herds had milk production in the two years averaging 78 to 80 lb, and feed intakes of 50 to 53 lb of dry matter. The eight low profit herds had milk production averaging 75 to 77 lb with intakes of 49 to 52 lb.


“All herds on the project used a nutritionist and rations formulated using current models,” says Virginia Ishler, an Extension dairy specialist with Pennsylvania State University. “The paper rations showed that the various nutrient requirements were satisfied.


“The big discrepancy was with the formulated dry matter intake compared to what the cows were consuming,” she says. “The factors influencing intake were related to the physical nature of the forages or rations.


“Since intake on many herds did not match the formulated diet, that negates the assumption that cows are receiving the ‘perfect’ amino acid profile or the correct amounts of metabolizable protein and energy,” Ishler says.


“The reality is too many dairies still need to work on the basics related to feed management and cow comfort,” she says. “Focusing on the minutia of nutrients to the nth decimal place is not going to solve major animal or financial performance problems.”


dairyherd.com