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Winter Feeding


Winter feeding

As feeding can impact on several production areas such as milk yield and quality, body condition score (BCS) and fertility, it is critical to give it the necessary attention.

Therefore during winter it is important that the nutritional requirements of the dairy cow are met.

In Northern Ireland, purchased feed is the single largest cost on dairy farms. For CAFRE dairy benchmarked farms, purchased feed (concentrates) accounts for 41% of the total costs per cow associated with milk production. This highlights the importance of using concentrates efficiently, and represents an opportunity to improve herd profitability. In this section you will find winter feeding information relating to the CAFRE Dairy herd and dairy cow nutrition (both technical notes and online applications accessible through DAERA online).

The CAFRE Dairy herd of 180 dairy cows is predominately autumn/winter calving. Within the herd, strong emphasis is placed on conserving high quality forages for winter feeding to optimise milk from forage. Forage nutritional quality is assessed monthly, with samples analysed through TROUW Nutrition UK. Forage dry matters are assessed on a weekly basis using a Koster moisture tester.

Forage is fed to the cows through a diet feeder, with diets monitored through the Keenan inTouch service. Milking cows are batched according to stage of lactation and milk yield.

There are three separate batches over the winter feeding period:

  1. Start-up cows and heifers
  2. High yield cows
  3. Late lactation group

Detailed feeding information relating to each group is available for download (see feed intake sheets).

Management practices and online applications to improve winter feed efficiency on dairy farms include: