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‘Push-ups’ in the dairy barn are good exercise

Make sure there is enough feed in the bunk at all times

A robot is one way to keep feed in front of cows.

As a dairy nutritionist, I believe that good dry matter intake of a well-balanced dairy diet means everything for good milk production. More nutritious feed consumed by healthy lactating cows means they produce more milk. It also has been proven that higher dry matter intake, as well as less feed refusal, can be simply achieved by providing more ration whenever cows want it.

Making sure that there is enough feed in the bunk at all times and pushing it up frequently yields several feed consumption-related advantages.

The benefits of keeping feed in front of cattle are appreciated by a 350-cow dairy producer whom I have known for years. He recognizes that every extra bite of feed that a cow eats efficiently produces more milk and is key to his financial bottom line. The feed he used to push up with an 18-inch shovel along his free-stall feed bunk is now pushed up by an automatic auger-type robot. It is a self-guided robot that remixes and pushes up laid-down feed every two hours.

The only time it is not pushing up feed is during both milking times, when the cows need access to an alleyway that leads from the loafing free stalls to the milking parlour, which crosses the robot‚ tracks. The disruption is minor to the daily operation of feeding his cows since my friend fills the feed bunk to full capacity just before both milking times. This attention to detail also allows the cows access to good fresh feed once they return from milking.

The producer told me that his auger robot was a good investment, yet he recognizes that it‚ no substitute for good-quality feed in the first place. He makes sure that his dairy lactation diet consists of high-quality and palatable forages as well as other feed ingredients and additives. Likewise, he makes sure his cows‚ diet supports good rumen health in that it contains enough cud-chewing fibre as well as places limits on non-fibre carbohydrates. Moisture content of the final diet is adjusted by adding hundreds of kilograms of water to the ration to achieve a 50 per cent moisture level, which prevents feed sorting by dairy cows.

About the author


Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at [email protected]



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