Dry Matter Intakes

It is important to ensure that your cows are eating as much forage as possible and that design faults or lack of space in your feed areas are not limiting the cow’s intake.  A lack of space can lead to timid cows and heifers being bullied and prevented from eating until older, more aggressive cows have finished.  This can lead to the more timid cows receiving a very different diet to the one you think you are feeding as the cows eating first will tend to eat all the goodies before the silage.  Two indicators that this may be a problem are:

  • Variable dung consistency within the herd, with some cows having very loose dung and others having much stiffer dung.
  • Nussle holes in the feed with cows sifting through the feed for the concentrates and additives.

Lack of space can also lead to reduced milk yields as cows are prevented from eating their full requirement of dry matter in a day.

It is not necessary to have one feed space per cow if you are feeding a complete diet that is well mixed and available 24 hours per day.  However, the more you reduce the space available the more bullying occurs resulting in poor cow interaction.  At most the cow feed space should be reduced by no more than 75% providing the diet is available 24 hours per day.

The table below shows the required feed area per cow if all cows are able to eat at the same time:

Weight of Animal (kgs) Width of Feed (m)
200 0.40
300 0.50
400 0.55
500 0.60
600 0.67
700 0.70
>800 0.75

It is very simple to check how much space your cows have and once you know you can decide if you need any more.  A drop in dry matter intakes of 1 kg could be costing you 2 litres of milk!  This could be costing you £30k over a winter for a 200 cow herd!

Having the feed barrier top bar too low will also limit dry matter intakes.  An indication of this is rub marks on the back of the cow’s neck.  If the cow has to reach to eat and put pressure on her neck it causes pain so is less likely to eat and stretch for the feed.  This can be a particular issue for the timid cows that are trying to eat food moved out of the way by the more aggressive eaters.  Regularly pushing up feed can also help to reduce this problem.

To discuss how you can improve the feed area for your dairy cows and maximise intakes,
contact Phil at