Date of this Version
This NebGuide emphasizes the importance of maximizing feed intake for maximum milk production, and management practices which stimulate feeding activity by dairy cattle.
The goal of most dairy producers is to maximize milk production in a cost-effective manner. On the typical dairy farm, feed costs represent nearly 50 percent of the total milk production cost. Economically, it is important to maximize feed intake, improve efficiency of feed use, and lower feeding costs. Many dairy producers fail to realize that there is more involved with properly feeding a dairy cow than looking at a computer printout of a balanced ration. With high producing cows, successfully implementing management strategies to maximize feed intake will determine how well a balanced diet supports milk production.
Dry matter intake provides the framework for a productive, profitable ration. A dairy cow has ration requirements for pounds of protein and other nutrients, not simply percentages. Dry matter intake must be known or estimated accurately to make sure that the nutrients required to support milk production can be provided in an amount of feed that the cow can reasonably consume in a day. An optimal feeding program consists of a balanced ration and management for maximal feed intake.