Feeding Dairy Cattle


Source: Government of Saskatchewan

In the long run, it is economical to maintain the present size of the cow herd and feed for high production.

Dairy cows need at least 800 pounds (360 kg) of hay or its equivalent each month. This amounts to the cow eating about two per cent of her body weight each day as hay. Milking cows need at least 1.5 per cent of their body weight as hay daily or they will have digestive upsets and drop milk fat percentage. Also, cows need 350 pounds (158 kg) of cereal grain for each 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of milk they produce.

When good quality hay is in short supply, slough hay, cereal hay and in extreme situations, cereal straw, may be used as a substitute.

Slough hay may be used as the only forage for dairy cattle. When it is the only forage they receive, the cattle will need about an 18 per cent protein dairy concentrate. A less costly ration based on slough hay consists of six to 12 pounds (2.7 to 5.5 kg) of dehydrated alfalfa pellets, sun cured alfalfa pellets or alfalfa cubes and enough slough hay to add up to 25 pounds (11.4 kg) of forage a day.

Cereal hay can replace good quality hay entirely. Feed each cow 25 pounds (11.4 kg) of cereal hay daily.

When cereal straw has to be used to extend hay supplies, feed only five to 10 pounds (2.2 to 4.5 kg) a day to milking cows. Use hay or a mix­ture of hay and dehydrated alfalfa to make up the balance of the forage needed.

You can feed replacement heifers and dry cows lower quality forages such as slough hay, grass hay and weedy hay. You will also have to feed them five to 10 pounds (2.2 to 4.5 kg) of grain and supplement.

To be sure you are feeding your dairy herd balanced rations, have samples of the feed analyzed for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. Seek advice on how to combine the feeds so they provide the proportions of nutrients the animals need.