What do Cows Eat?

What do Cows Eat?

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In order to achieve satisfactory milk production and ensure good cow health, adequate and high-quality feeding is required. Feed balancing is a supply of nutrients that meets the needs of a cow, ensuring that it maintains its livelihood (sustained needs), increases (in still-growing cows), production (milk) and reproduction (fetal development).

Feeding cows on a quality pasture can satisfy the subsistence needs and ensure the production of approximately 20 pounds of milk. It would be desirable for the cow to have good quality and varied nutrition to obtain all the necessary ingredients in the meal. Particular attention should be paid to mineral elements and vitamins in nutrition as they have a major impact on all life functions; affect production, increase the body’s resistance to various diseases, etc.

Making a balanced meal for dairy cows implies that the nutrients are combined in quantities that meet daily needs. Without adequate nutrition that meets all the animal’s nutritional needs, successful milk production is not possible.

A balanced cow feed is a healthy feed

A balanced feed involves not only the supply of certain quantities of essential nutrients but also the proper relationship between them. For cows kept in the barn, almost complete control over feeding can be exercised. When keeping herds in the pasture, controls are not possible to this extent because they freely consume cabbage foods, which can vary considerably, both in quantity and quality (through the selection of individual plant species).

In one herd, especially if larger, it is not possible to make a meal for each individual cow. On the other hand, it is not recommended that all cows receive the same meal. For this reason, rations should be drawn up for individual productive groups of cows, in order to avoid insufficient feeding on the one hand and overfed feeding on the other.

Basic and supplementary part of feeding cows

In practice, there is a widespread process of dividing a feed into two parts: basic and supplementary. The composition of the basic part of the feed is done on the basis of nutritional requirements for the cows of average body weight and lowest milk yield. This portion of the feed consists predominantly or exclusively of cabbage. The larger production of cows meets their needs partly from the basic feed and partly from the supplementary feed. The basic ration is given to all the cows while supplementary is standardized according to production. It consists of concentrated nutrients. Each cow receives a supplementary feed according to how much milk she gives.

Most often, when preparing a meal, it is based on the dry matter (or energy) ratio of cabbage and concentrated foods. The interplay of bulky and concentrated nutrients in a feed for a given level of production depends on the quality of the bulky feed and the cow’s overall energy needs. Due to the increased energy requirements of high-production cows, the proportion of concentrate in the ration also increases.

Dried cows may receive a meal that consists almost exclusively of cabbage feed, but in high-yielding cows, the proportion of concentrate increases. In this case, the presence of cabbage should not be less than 40% so as not to disturb the population of microorganisms in the rumen and the processes that take place by their action. At the same time, this means that concentrated nutrients should not make up more than 60% of the dry matter of the ration, even in cows with the highest production.

What to give cows to eat

Today there is a wide range of fodders in the feeding of cows, so fodders are classified into several groups according to the type and amount of nutrients. The basic feed in cow feeding that should be our priority is bulk feeds. Bulk feeds, with sufficient dry matter, stimulate rumen function and milk synthesis, have a beneficial effect on saliva secretion, digestibility, and reduce milk production. The major advantage of bulk feed is the high proportion of fibers and minerals, but the main disadvantage is the lower proportion of energy and water. These bulk feeds are divided into dry bulk feeds such as hay, straw, and corn, and juicy bulk feeds that include grazing, green forage from arable lands and meadows, silage and hayfields.

The lack of energy and protein that occurs in bulk feeding is offset by concentrated feeds. These feeds are the basis for high milk production and the production of 10 gallons of milk per day requires a proportion of concentrate in the dry matter of the meal from 60 to 70%. The concentrated feeds we use are carbohydrate feeds such as corn, wheat, barley, oats, and other cereals, and protein feeds such as soybeans, soybean meals, animal peas, sunflower seeds and more. In the last 20 years, food by-products such as turnip noodles, molasses, brewer’s spent grain, have been increasingly used in cattle feeding, and it is a very tasty feed for cows and increases their daily production and share of milk fat.

Bulk feeds are a major source of minerals for cows, but their content is uneven. Because of this, in large combines, various mineral feeds are also used as a source of micromineral and macromineral. Some of the most common mineral feeds are animal salt as a source of sodium and chlorine, then calcium as a source of chalk or phosphonate which is a great source of phosphorus, and in addition enhances bone mineralization.

Forage mixture or concentrates are used as the most common addition to bulk feeds. Mixtures are produced for each production phase and vary in nutrient composition and ratio.

What to feed the cows in the winter?

If cattle, and especially high-milk cows, are fed inadequate food, mistakes can be made that result in lower milk production per cow than in extensive breeds, which can significantly impair the health of the cow. Producers always strive to achieve the most positive nutritional balance with as little input as possible, but this positive balance should go to the highest production of milk, and not compensate for deficiencies in other technological segments of production.

In addition to the voluminous feed, proteins should be also secured to cows

In the feeding of cows during the winter, silage from the entire corn plant is used as the basic nutrient. Alfalfa hay could serve as a supplement to bulky feeds. However, its amount depends very much on the weather, which can be crucial for preparing larger quantities of hay. In addition to these two bulky nutrients, a complete compound feed of 18% protein is mandatory. The best milk production, during the winter feeding period, is achieved when the needs for bulky foods are met with 50% silage and 50% hay. This implies that the feed is of good nutritional value and taste.

Experts say that it is not always easy to secure quality silage from the entire corn plant, because there are years when adverse weather complicates the production of quality silage. Dry periods at various stages of corn development cause it to have little piston relative to the total mass of the plant, so livestock farmers are often forced to disregard the waxy ripening stage of corn kernels, which is optimum for silage. Science and the profession insist that when silage of a complete corn plant, this process is carried out in the waxing stage. At the stage of milky ripening, the plant contains less sugar and more starch, so it gives too much acid silage that the cows are reluctant to eat, especially if it is silage before milking.

Pay attention to the smell of silage

Another parameter for the optimum stage of the ripening of corn for silage is when the piston-stem ratio is 50:50 percent. If the silage process is normal, the pH of the silage is 3.7-4.2. The acid ratio indicates its quality. Lactic acid is odorless. The pungent odor indicates the presence of a large amount of acetic acid. The unpleasant smell of sour reveals excess butyric acid.

Good silage contains about 2% lactic acid, 0.3-0.5% acetic acid and traces of butyric.

The extent to which the milk producer can provide quality and tasty food, well balanced against the optimal needs of the cow, will depend on the success of the production.

Healthy cows – a thriving farm

Inadequate feed also impairs the health of cows. That is why experts emphasize that we work with prevention through good nutrition and keep individuals in good condition. The main prerequisite for successful production is the good health status of the farm and the good health of each cow.

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