Providing the correct nutrition is essential for today’s high-yielding dairy cows.
Over recent decades, genetic improvement and better management practices have dramatically increased dairy cattle milk production but, at the same time, managing fertility and conception rates have been difficult.
Managing the optimum productivity of dairy cattle in terms of quality milk production and efficient breeding plays a vital role in profitable dairy farming. Nutrition is one of the most important factors in their performance, health, and welfare.
The body utilizes many nutrients for milk production, and increased nutrient demands for production can negatively impact reproduction in dairy cows.
High-yielding cows require special nutritional care, especially during periods of production stress. Modern, high-yielding animals are either in lactation or in advanced pregnancy, posing regular metabolic stress to the body.
Meeting the nutritional needs of the high-yielding cow for optimum production and reproduction is a challenge for modern dairy producers. An adequately nourished cow will be healthy and capable of managing the stresses associated with high milk production.
Energy and protein feed ingredients, in addition to many trace elements and vitamins, play important roles in milk production and reproduction. It is not only the quantities of energy and protein source but also their quality that plays a vital role in optimum production and reproduction.
Energy: additional supplementation is a must for high-yielding cow
In lactating dairy cattle, milk yield usually peaks at four to eight weeks postpartum, but dry matter intake does not increase proportionately to meet energy requirements until 10-14 weeks postpartum. Consequently, high-yielding cows experience some degree of negative energy balance during the early postpartum period. High-yielding cows have a gap between energy supply and demand. To fulfill the higher energy need for milk production, animals utilize body reserves resulting in impaired health and frequent metabolic disorders.
Energy is the major nutrient required by adult cattle, and inadequate energy intake has a detrimental impact on milk yield and reproduction. Cows under negative energy balance have extended periods of anovulation. Postpartum anestrus, as well as infertility, is magnified by losses of body condition during the early postpartum period.
Strategy to increase energy intake
The extent and duration of postpartum negative energy balance are influenced by genetic potentiality for milk production, dietary energy density, and dry matter intake. Nutritional management strategies can be employed to minimize the extent and duration of negative energy balance.
In view of the fact that dry matter intake during the early lactation period goes down, increasing the energy density of the ration is the only available option to improve energy intake, which can be achieved through the supplementation of grains or fat.
Diets containing high levels of grain may cause metabolic disturbances, such as rumen acidosis, and may ultimately result in low milk and milk fat production.
To avoid these problems, fat can be added to increase the energy density of the diet. Fat supplementation also has other potential benefits, such as increased absorption of fat-soluble nutrients and reduced dustiness of feed. In addition, feeding fat to dairy cows generally improves fertility.