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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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Managing the welfare and resiliency of cows on a dairy involves a series of routine daily tasks, such as feeding, milking and general herd care. Whether they have a few family members or a team of 200 employees, producers typically establish protocols to complete tasks efficiently while maintaining animal health and productivity. But some feed-management protocols designed to maximize labor efficiency can actually increase levels of harmful bacteria in the total mixed ration (TMR), including clostridia.

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Feed rations account for more than half of the cost of milk production; this number varies depending on the price of milk and feed. How dairies meet feed challenges determines, to a large extent, the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the dairy industry.

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Almond hulls are an energy and fiber source I have utilized since starting 18 years ago as a nutrition consultant in California. More than 90% of the dairy farmers I work with feed almond hulls as a concentrate, silage extender or both.

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Byproduct feeds are feed ingredients that have had nutrients extracted for human or commercial applications. Examples include soybean meal (oil removed for industrial and human food uses), fuzzy whole cottonseed (fiber used for clothing) and corn distillers grain (production of ethanol as a fuel).

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Is it OK to just feed cows, or does it matter what nutrients are fed? Think of it this way: We work to reduce variation during feeding, for both consistent ingredient and nutrient delivery.

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Shrinking is generally not your friend. Whether you’re talking about your favorite pair of work pants or feed, it’s not something that benefits you or your operation.

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