During winter, it is important to have a proper dairy feeding program to maximise yield. Here are top 5 priorities: 1. Having a plan
Develop a plan for using homegrown forages and determine whether it is necessary to purchase other forages.
Sample all the forages and submit them to forage testing laboratory to determine the nutrient content.
Throughout the feeding season, take several samples and combine their results to get an even more accurate data of nutrient content of forages being fed as single samples do not accurately represent the nutrient content.
It is also important to take an inventory of each forage and commodity in storage.
This will enable you to determine any shortfalls so that forages can be purchased to be added to the rations being fed.
2. Balance rations
It is important to have balance rations for all groups of cattle on the dairy operation.
Having a balanced ration will help support maintenance, milk production and growth of the animals.
By having various combinations of forages and other commodities, it may also result in cost savings.
Due to fluctuation of feed cost, farmers should reevaluate feeding programs frequently.
When determining the amount of each ingredient to be added to the TMR, it is important to use the dry matter (DM) content of each feed to calculate.
Dry matter contents of wet feeds need to be measured weekly and changes made when necessary to the amount added to the TMR mixer.
3. Review feeding practices
Feeding practices need to be reviewed often. Here are some of the important points:
Lactating cows should have access to feedbunk for at least 20 hours a day.
Cows should be fed with a consistent ration at a consistent time daily.
Uneaten food should be removed frequently from the feedbunk.
Feed should be provided within the entire feedbunk at each feeding for the lactating herd.
Sufficient bunk and freestall space should be provided so that the cows do not feel overcrowded.
Fans should be turned on when temperatures are above 18°C - 20°C.
The TMR mixers need to be serviced and adjusted frequently for the feeds being added.
Clean surfaces on bunkers and maintain silage storage structures to ensure high quality feed are being fed.
The animals should be consuming a similar amount of feed as suggested in balanced rations.
4. Working with consultants
It is important to work closely with nutritionist and other consultants to develop and modify the feeding and overall management program throughout the feeding season.
It is beneficial to discuss and bounce off ideas with different groups of people to improve your bottom line.
5. Start planning for future
It is important to start planning for the next cropping season.
Evaluate if changes are needed to your cropping system of forage purchasing plan.
Using forage analysis, review whether your harvesting technique have resulted in the highest quality forages.