Dry cows


Source: National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 2.2.3

Dry cows require changing levels of nutrients for maintenance and growth of the fetus. Rumen dynamics also change as cows move from a high concentrate diet during lactation to a high fiber diet early in the dry period, and then back to a high concentrate diet post-calving. A sudden introduction of grain post-calving can predispose cows to ruminal acidosis (28).

A well balanced diet during the dry period (including trace minerals and vitamin supplementation) has been shown to minimize the incidence of diseases and metabolic disorders that can occur as cows transition from pregnancy to lactation (33).

The National Research Council (NRC) guidelines for dairy cattle provide separate nutrient guidelines for far-off dry cows and pre-fresh transition cows, recognizing the nutritional changes that accompany these periods. Unique diets for these periods should “reduce the risk of metabolic disorders during early lactation and improve lactation performance” (29).


Dry cows must receive a ration that is adequate for maintaining health and vigor.


  1. test nutrient content of feed ingredients used
  2. ensure all rations have been balanced
  3. feed diets high in forage to reduce the risk of sub-acute and acute ruminal acidosis
  4. reduce the risk of sub-acute ruminal acidosis from high concentrate diets by ensuring the diet contains sufficient coarse fiber, by feeding total mixed rations.