If you had to choose one thing that affects milk production, it would be the amount of feed the cows consume everyday. The more the cows eat, the more nutrients they will absorb and metabolised and ultimately produce more milk.
Reaching Herd's Potential
It has been said that current herds of cows have the genetic potential to reach individual lactation of 30,000 pounds milk per year.
In order to sustain peak performance of 100 pounds of milk for several months, the cows are able to consume over 60 pounds of dry mater per day.
Hence, one of the key to reach and maintain this level of milk production is to feed a well balanced ration to the cows and make sure they have access to the ration throughout the date.
One of the most difficult problem in the area of nutrition is to ensure cows have sufficient energy without compromising microbial efficiencies and rumen health.
A properly formulated feed ration should:
Maximise feed intake
Optimise nutrient density of the ration
Maximise Feed Intake
In order to maximise feed intake, the ration should not have excess high neutral detergent fiber (NDF) levels as it will restrict the cow's feed consumption as well as digestibility.
However, the ration should still have enough effective fiber in order to maintain proper rumen health and non-fiber carbohydrates (NFC) to supply additional energy and protein.
Ration should also be mixed thoroughly in order to prevent sorting.
Ration must be kept fresh to encourage the cows to come back to the feedbunk.
Optimising Nutrient Density
Optimising nutrient density of the ration means trying to squeeze as many calories, vitamins, minerals and so on into a pound of feed as possible.
Special care needs to be taken care when formulating rations to provide an optimal mix of nutrients to the cows as efficiently as possible.
When purchasing feedstuff, price should not be the only criteria.
Types of fats, carbohydrates, amino acid profiles in proteins and fiber digestibility should be considered when making a decision.
Stages Of Ration Feeding
A high producing lactation starts in the dry period.
Cows that receive proper nutrition can produce 1,000 - 2,000 more pounds of milk during the course of the following lactation mainly due to increased feed intake and a well-functioning rumen at the time of calving.
Generally, cows will have difficulty maintaining feed intake in the days prior to calving and immediately following.
Maintaining nutrients level for 2 - 3 weeks prior to freshening will decrease the possibilities of metabolic disorders such as milk fevers and ketosis in the days following calving.
During early lactation phase, the more the cows eat, the more milk they will produce.
Once a cow is fresh, the energy density of the ration needs to be kept as high as possible.
Feed intake of fresh cows usually lags behind milk production, thus causing negative energy balance for several weeks during early lactation.
However, high level of caloric intake is difficult to attain without compromising the effective fiber of the ration.
It is encouraged to consider using rumen bypass fats and work closely with your nutritionist when formulating fresh-cow ration.
The main strategy is to make sure there is sufficient protein and carbohydrate sources for optimal rumen microbial growth and as well as having high quality forages to keep rumen papillae healthy.
The Right Price
There is a misconception among farmers that attaining and maintaining herd milk production around 20,000 pounds per year is not effective.
Dairymen should not be afraid to push their herds as hard as possible even when feed prices are high.
With a proactive approach towards feeding your cows, the cows will have a higher lactation peak and sustain peak for a longer periods of time, making it a more profitable lactation which will ultimately boost the bottom line of your business.