Nutrition and Feed Management


National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 2.2

The nutritional requirements of the cow can be met using a variety of feed components. Cows can be fed a total mixed ration (TMR) or alternatively a component based ration.

Correct feed management is necessary to ensure good health and welfare. Cows are motivated to perform the same activity at the same time (e.g., feed, rest, ruminate). Cows also prefer to eat during daylight hours. Increased feeding frequency (at least twice per day) has been found to reduce the amount of total mixed ration (TMR) sorting that occurs and allows subordinate cows to access feed more often. Feed management programs that consider such behavioral needs are likely to reduce stress and aggressive behaviors within a herd, and have a positive impact on herd health and productivity (27).

Dairy cattle experience a number of transition periods (unweaned to weaned, dry to fresh) that present nutritional challenges for producers to meet. Feeding practices have a major impact on the overall health and welfare of cattle. Cattle that are not fed adequately will be hungry, and are also more likely to have reduced immune function (31).


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


  1. ensure the composition of diets reflects production level, reproductive stage, body size, housing and weather conditions
  2. test nutrient content of feed ingredients used
  3. ensure all rations have been balanced and that all feed components used in the ration are of good quality and free of spoilage
  4. provide fresh feed to the cow daily when she is in the barn, except when fasting is required for medical reasons
  5. minimize factors that create stress or aggressive behaviors within a herd
  6. provide adequate linear feed bunk space (e.g., 24in, 60cm, per cow)
  7. keep a consistent feeding schedule
  8. provide adequate bunk access time
  9. ensure continuous access by pushing up feed in the bunk.