Maximising Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
Factors affecting DMI are complex. With that being said, providing a well balanced ration will enable the cow to eat and satisfy her needs. However, for high yielding cows, the lowest point of feed intake is during post-calving period and this coincides with peak milk production. Hence, it may not be possible to feed the cows enough to support high milk yields.
Lactation is given a higher priority for nutrition allocation over reproduction. Cows that do not consume sufficient energy will lose body weight, take longer time to return to oestrus and may not get back in calf. A common factory of low feed intake is due to poor quality forage.
Here are several guidelines to maximise DMI:
Provide high quality dry matter forages (50 - 75%) in the ration will encourage higher DMI.
If the total mixed diets contains less than 50% dry matter, it will reduce the intake.
Some ingredients are generally more palatable than others.
It is encouraged to feed Total Mixed Ration (TMR) to increase DMI.
Good quality, highly digestible forages will result in better DMI as compared to low quality, low digestibility forage.
Poorly fermented forages will be less palatable and it will reduce overall nutrient intake of the cows.
Feeding unprotected fats will reduce efficiency and result in decreased in performance. If you intend to feed fat supplement, use protected fat (eg. PalmFat S100), which will help to satisfy energy demands without sacrificing rumen function.
Feeding Mixed Forages
No single forage will provide all the nutrient the cows need. Hence, a balance of forages will help improve the rumen function and increase overall performance of the animal.
It is recommended to feed a forage with a medium to high starch content such as maize or wholecrop alongside with forage containing high levels of rumen degradable protein such as grass. This will help to provide the rumen microbes with a balance of fermentable energy as well as rumen degradable protein sources. This will allow the rumen microbes to make use of both energy and protein supplied, thus enhancing efficiency of the rumen and increase the rumen microbial protein supply to the animal. Ideally, it is encouraged to feed a mixture of different forages in order to provide ideal balance of nutrients required by rumen microbes.