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Feed & Nutrition

Learn about all aspects of the dairy cow ration, from harvest to storage and balancing additives to forage supplementation.

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We all want the same things from our dairy cows – high production of quality milk with minimal health problems. During the close-up dry period and the start of lactation, cows go through many changes that present challenges to meeting these goals. The transition period, three weeks prior to and three weeks after calving, is the most sensitive time in the dairy cow lifecycle. During this time, cows freshen, experience nutritional changes and are moved into different pens with different cows, all while producing high volumes of milk.

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The main goal of dairy nutrition is to match the nutrient requirements of the cows with nutrients provided by feed ingredients. However, in addition, a quality dairy cow ration should optimize cow health and production, maximize forage feeding, minimize the excretion of nutrients and be cost-efficient. This [article] will outline current trends in feeding dairy cows and highlight some of the challenges we may face in the future when formulating dairy cow rations.

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In today’s world, we often feel like we have more to do than we can ever get done. This is definitely true when it comes to managing a dairy farm business as you try to manage all the different aspects of the operation. To prevent one from becoming overwhelmed, it is important to sort out the tasks that need to be done and complete those with the highest priority first. As it relates to the dairy nutrition program, the following five areas need to receive the highest priorities. These include:

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Now is the time to think where changes can be made on the dairy to lessen the impacts of hot weather on dairy cows. Besides changing the cow’s environment to lessen the effects of heat stress, dairymen may also modify their feeding program in order to give their animals additional relief during hot weather. The main objective of feeding cows during heat stress should be to maximize feed intake.

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Profitable dairies will pay attention to forage production and management this year, says nutritionist Aaron Naber. It’s one of three keys to profitability in 2007, he says, all dairy producers should remember.

“The dairy producers that manage forages and have the ability to feed high-forage diets are generally at the top of the heap,” Naber says.

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Clinical vitamin deficiency as characterized by classic deficiency symptoms is rare in well-managed dairy herds. Occasionally deficiency symptoms are noted in calves or growing heifers fed poor-quality diets. Of greater concern is the occurrence of sub-clinical vitamin deficiency where classic deficiency symptoms are not observed but where the normal functioning of body systems (i.e., immunity, reproduction, intermediary metabolism) is compromised by marginal vitamin status at the tissue level.

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