Producers could help to improve milk and butterfat yield by managing a fresh cow group and target feeding high protein and amino acid diets.
That was the message from Ohio State University’s Bill Weiss, during his week-long tour of the UK as part of the Mole Valley Farmers Lifetime Dairy roadshow.
He told producers that running a fresh cow group, for the first three or four weeks of lactation, offered ‘tremendous benefits’.
“It’s the one grouping that can help with health and reproduction problems, as well as improving production and lowering feed costs,” he says.
He stresses, however, that producers must have the labour and facilities to manage an additional ‘fresh’ group within the herd.
Having such a group encourages closer observation and ensures that health protocols are implemented. And it also creates the opportunity to target feeds to this smaller group.
Professor Weiss adds that it’s well worth feeding high-protein diets to fresh calvers. “Research has shown that this approach can lower the ketosis risk and result in long-term production benefits,” he says, citing recent work where fresh cows were fed three different crude protein diets for the first 25 days of lactation: 16%, 19% and 21%.
“Cows fed the higher protein diets ate around 2kg more feed per head per day, compared to the 16% crude protein diet. High protein diets stimulate feed intakes in a fresh cows – and that’s what you want.”
This additional intake equated to about 4kg more fat-corrected milk in cows fed the 19% crude protein diet, compared to the 16%.
Cows fed 21% crude protein produced only slightly more milk than cows fed the 19% diet. Milk fat percentage went down but, because yield went up, milk fat yield also went up. Milk protein percentage and protein yield also increased.
“Because cows were eating more, cows on the high-protein diets also had lower levels of subclinical ketosis, despite the fact they were producing more milk,” adds Professor Weiss.