Nutrition and feeding of dairy cattle

Source: National Library of Medicine
Guest Editor (s): Fuller W. Bazer
Guest Editor (s): G. Cliff Lamb
Guest Editor (s): Guoyao Wu
aDepartment of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
bU.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA-ARS, Madison, WI, United States
Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States


Feeding dairy cattle utilize the sciences of nutrition, biochemistry, and microbiology and combine them with animal husbandry. In this chapter, we will discuss the nutrients and how they are integral for dairy cattle performance (growth and milk production). We will evaluate the feeding of calves and heifers along with some brief practical feeding recommendations for dry and prepartum cows.


The high producing dairy cow requires a diet that supplies the nutrient needs for high milk production. Carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and water are all nutrients required by the lactating dairy cow to meet the demand by the mammary gland to produce milk and milk components. However, in order to develop the cow that will produce a high milk yield, it begins with the nutrition of the calf and heifer.


Producing high-quality milk from healthy dairy animals starts with the nutrition and management of the calf. Through proper nutrition and management, the dairy heifer will develop into a high producing dairy cow that can produce to its genetic potential. By providing cows a consistent diet based on their performance along with comfortable housing and adequate water milk production, growth and overall performance should be optimized. Optimizing milk yield will result in a more efficient conversion of feed to milk, consequently enhancing nutrient utilization, reducing waste and helping to maintain a sustainable dairy industry.

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