Dairy nutrition fundamentals

Feeding dairy cows profitably is critically important to all dairy farmers.

The need to maintain a well-balanced and consistent diet that achieves sound rumen health in dairy cows – while delivering high milk productivity – is the daily goal on farm when it comes to feedbase management. But getting the basics right is not always as simple as it may sound.

Dairy farmers understand the direct impacts animal nutrition management can have on their business profitability and cow health. Confidently making cost-effective, on farm nutrition decisions, which match their farm systems and plans, is a complex business in itself.

Dairy Australia’s Development and Regional Adaptation Lead, Dr Brenda McLachlan, says there’s a lot to consider when buying feeds and meeting the nutrient needs for the dairy cows.

“Farmers must look at feed supplement options to cater for energy, fibre and protein needs. Then there’s monitoring animal health and body condition, as well as managing feed quality when it comes to pastures and forages,” Brenda says.

“Add in planning for factors impacting intake such as hot weather events – it makes for a complex task.”

Feeding the highest quality forages to the milking herd is essential in working towards meeting adequate nutrients needs. Often the challenge for farmers is knowing what nutrients are in the feeds they select for their cows and the impact on milk production and composition.

“Having the know-how to select feeds that have appropriate nutrients for the dairy herd will help put farmers one step closer to increasing farm income,” says Brenda.

Dairy Australia’s Nutrition Fundamentals workshop has been helping farmers do just that. One of the feedbase and nutrition service offerings, this program has been running nationally since 2018 with numerous farmers and farm staff having participated across all regions.

“We run this as a practical, two-day workshop designed to support farm businesses and their service providers to get the basics right when it comes to dairy cow nutrition,” says Brenda.

Developed to help improve farmer’s understanding on feed nutrients, rumen digestion and health and cow energy requirements, it is an introductory program on basic dairy cow nutrition for farmers and their staff. 

The workshop has recently been updated.

“We asked for feedback from farmers and recognised the need to adjust the Nutrition Fundamentals program to make the workshops more engaging with lots of take-home messages and actions farmers can implement in their nutrition management practices,” says Brenda.

“It’s a more engaging, evidence-based extension service that is designed to support practice change on farm, as well as provide participants with the knowledge and skills to make informed feeding decisions.”

Discover when the next Nutrition Fundamental workshops is running by contacting your regional office.

To find out more about how Dairy Australia supports dairy farmers with feedbase and animal nutrition and for lots of helpful resources, visit dairyaustralia.com.au/feeding-and-farm-systems

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