If you want a profitable dairy farm then you have to feed your animals well. Feeding is a major factor that determines how well your cows will perform in terms of milk production, growth, body condition and overall health.
Things to note
- Quantity and quality of milk produced is determined by milk consumed.
- Under-feeding of dairy cows results in reduced production.
- Poor quality feeds lead to low production coupled with poor quality milk.
We therefore need to understand how important the nutritional and feed requirement of dairy cattle.
Dairy cattle require nutrients from feed for various functions.
Growth requirements are for increasing the body size and are met only after maintenance needs have been satisfied. These needs vary with age, breed, sex and stage of development. Young animals have much higher requirements than mature animals for proteins, energy, vitamins and minerals. Young animals also suffer earlier and more severely from nutritional deficiencies than mature animals.
Feeds are important because they keep the cows body functioning properly, replacing worn out tissues, maintaining body temperatures and supplying energy for muscular activity. When maintenance requirements of a non-pregnant, non lactating animal are met exactly, the body stores of excess protein, fat and minerals are held constant. Approximately ½ of feed consumed by a lactating cow is used for this purpose. The maintenance requirements of a cow are proportional to its size.
These requirements depend on the amount of milk produced and the butter fat content of the milk. A cow which produces 20lts of milk daily requires twice as much protein as the cow producing 10lts with the same butter fat content. If nutrients requirement for milk production are not met then the cow will draw on her body reserves. When the reserves have been used up, production will drop to the amount that can be produced from nutrients that she receives in excess of maintenance.
Pregnancy requirements are relatively low but should not be ignored. Pregnant cows should be fed adequate amount of all nutrients. During the last two months of gestation the energy requirement increases by 50%- 60% above the requirement or non-pregnant cow of the same size.