Cold Weather Forces Ration Adjustments

The fresh cows increase milk production by ten pounds due to diversity of energy sources and the amounts altered to complement the forage quality.
Cold Weather Forces Ration Adjustments - Articles


Penn State Dairy Cows

There was one word the best describes February and that was "cold". The weather plays havoc on people and cows. It seems like it has been a long time since we have had to contend with record snow fall and extreme cold temperatures for extended periods of time. This scenario presents its own set of challenges when feeding cows.

This year's corn silage quality has made it more difficult to get milk from the cows. I have heard several nutritionists complain that feeding higher starch rations have not been successful. I have mentioned numerous times the positive results we observe by manipulating the particle size of the corn grain. However, corn is not the only energy source that we rely on. We also feed candy meal and liquid sugar. This provides a diversity of energy sources and the amounts can be altered accordingly to complement the forage quality being fed. The ability to adjust carbohydrate sources has minimized production loss because of the challenge of feeding 2013 corn silage testing low in starch and starch and fiber digestibility.

Towards the end of the month I noticed that the fresh cows were not performing as well as they should. At the same time I was evaluating their milk production, the assistant manager emailed me that he was noticing more corn and fiber particles in the fresh cow manure. I also noticed that intakes for all the cow groups (except for the fresh cows) were higher than typical. I revised the rations with the focus on more energy. With the very cold weather cows need more energy for maintenance as well as performance. The fresh cows receive a TMR consisting of 50/50 forage to concentrate. Instead of raising the concentrate or the starch level, I increased the amount of candy meal. The total sugar content was at 10% of the total ration dry matter and the starch level remained at 22 percent. This very simple adjustment resulted in a 10 pound increase in production without any change in dry matter intake. This response occurred over a one week period with average days in milk of nineteen. The assistant manager also commented that the manure returned to normal after the change.

The ration for the other production groups was reformulated to 60% forage instead of 65% forage on a dry matter basis. The candy meal was increased in these diets and the total sugar content was 8.5% on a dry matter basis with the starch level remaining at 24 percent. For the two high production groups consisting of older cows, milk production remained the same but both groups reduced dry matter intake by three pounds. The group of two year olds remained the same in both production and dry matter intake. This illustrates the complexity of nutrition and that cows respond differently depending on where they are in lactation and age. Not every response has to show up in the bulk tank. Sometimes it can be in the efficiency of converting nutrients into milk. However, if production by group and dry matter intake are not monitored, it would be difficult to pick up these responses. The increase in feed cost per cow this month was due in part to higher feed costs but a larger part was due to the herd's higher intakes to meet their energy requirements. Because of our strong components milk price was $26.09/cwt. This coupled with good production generated a very strong IOFC. For the month of February the herd averaged 84.5 pounds with a 3.89% milk fat, 3.12% milk protein, 132,000 SCC and 8.2 mg/dl MUN.

IOFC Results

Month and YearGross Milk Price/cwtMilk income/cowFeed cost/cowIOFCAverage milk lbsLow BenchmarkHigh benchmark

IOFC Graph