Dairy Herd - Milk Quality
Controlling Milk Quality Through Nutrition
Optimising the milk quality (milk fat and protein) can be achieved by changing breed/genetics but this takes time and money. Therefore, the quickest way is to alter the feeding. As a rule of thumb, an increase in fibre increases the milk fat, and an increase in energy increases the milk protein.
- Use fresh, high D value forage
- Replace some grass silage with maize or whole crop silage; this should increase forage and energy intake
- Increase grazing. Extending the grazing season in early spring and late autumn has been shown to improve milk protein %. However, this grass must have good sward quality and of sufficient cover. Tight stocking in the spring encourages dense leafy swards with minimum stem development. However, stocking too tightly in spring can reduce intake and hence milk protein %
- Buffer feeding with high levels of maize silage (6kg dry matter/day) to cows at grass can improve milk fat %
- More concentrates, within reason, will increase milk protein % while maintaining milk fat %
- Increasing starch, particularly of the smaller particles, will increase milk protein % but beware of the effect on rumen function if only fed 2 or 3 times daily
- Bypass protein can increase milk protein %
- Supplementary fats can increase milk fat %, but as a rule, they reduce milk protein %
Stage of lactation
- First 80 days; aim to minimise the energy gap first, to minimise weight loss and minimise the drop in milk protein %
- Mid lactation; maximise dry matter intake of a high energy diet to maximise milk protein %
- Dry period; allow the cow to rebuild her mammary tissue and replenish some of her body reserves. Condition the rumen to maximise the dry matter intake at the point of calving
Discuss your objectives with your vet and your dietary advisor in order to optimise your milk quality, without compromising the cow’s health and the need to get her pregnant again.