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How much Forage do cows actually need?
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Cows love to eat forage. How much do they really need though?

During World Dairy Expo’s Forage Seminar a presentation was given by Kenneth Kalscheur, a dairy scientist with the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis. helped answer that question.

“If you’re thinking of putting a higher amount of forage in the diet it is not something you do overnight,” Kalscheur says.

There are things you have to factor in and here are seven considerations:

1.Put up consistent forage with minimal variation. Variation in forage quality has a big impact on milk production. “Consistency really is king in formulation of diets,” Kalscheur says.
2.Keep track of your forage inventory.  Make sure you have enough to make it tough the year. You’ll need to have enough land to put up additional forage.
3.Feed highest and lowest quality forages to the most appropriate groups. The best feed goes to the highest producing cows. Low quality forage can go to low producing cows and dairy heifers.
4.Analyze forages frequently. This includes looking at particle size and digestibility.
5.Adjust rations as needed based on forage analyses. When you have the information you should use it. “It means you are going to adjust your diet more often than you normally would,” Kalscheur says.
6.Target feeding management. This includes looking at facets of storage like silage face management, aerobic stability, palatability and feed delivery. “You want to take off enough each day to prevent spoilage,” Kalscheur says. It needs to correlate to the size of the operation.
7.Monitor TMR mixer management. A bulkier ration results from adding more forage, so there will be a need for additional mixes per day or a larger mixer.

No matter what the diet looks like for a dairy, forages are going to make up a bulk of the ration.

“Forages are the most important ingredient in the dairy ration. Feeding a consistent, high quality forage is key in maximizing milk production,” Kalscheur says.


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