I once read an article about a large dairy farm where there were some basic rules. Most of them I thought were nonsense but one gave me much concern:
A DRY COW NEEDS AS MUCH FEED AS A MILKING COW.
I come from a time when cows were wintered in chessboard fashion on squares of various colours of brown, so the reasoning behind this statement was obscure, at least.
As the seasons pass I find my wintering plans require more and more feed for the cows as I endeavour to improve on the last season.
This year the Manawatu has been blessed with a favourable milking season and most farms have pushed on with milking to mid May. Locally the cows have been in a Condition Score of 4.0 so will need a lift of 1 - 1.5 CS before calving.The feed required for that lift seems to be a variable figure of 150 - 200 Kgs DM per condition score per cow. Therefore, as much as 300Kgs could be needed for each cow, over and above maintenance.
An average requirement would be 220Kgs DM per cow. Assuming that the cows were dried off on 15th May and needed at least a week of reduced feed to
complete the drying off process, the time to get the cows back to calving condition is limited to about 5 weeks.
The gains have to be made by July as the calf, by then, is requiring a significant 2-3 KgsDM per day for growth, the size of the calf limits intake , and usually theweather is starting to get miserable, all making it harder to increase the cow condition.
This indicates that the extra 220Kgs DM has to be fed to each cow in 35 days which means 6.3Kgs per cow per day.
Maintenance for a large friesian is 6.5KgsDM so that dry cow needs 12.8Kgs DM per day to achieve the 5.0 to 5.5 Condition Score.
A cow milking in April/May at 1kg milksolids per day will require 12-13 KgsDM per day, so:
"THE DRY COW REQUIRES AS MUCH FEED AS THE (AUTUMN) MILKING COW."
May be to call it a rule is a bit rigid, but it makes a good starting point when assessing each seasons winter requirements.
15 June 2000