Dairy Calf & Heifer AssociationPredicting the dry matter intake of dairy heifers is an important part of heifer nutrition programs, but it can be challenging to estimate for a number of reasons.

Recently, University of Wisconsin researchers collected more than 9,000 heifer-pen dry matter intakes. The data, collected at the Integrated Dairy Research Facility at the University of Wisconsin, shed new light on the dry matter intakes of heifers under commercial-rearing conditions.

The study involved Holstein and Holstein x Jersey crossbred heifers. The researchers present their findings in a new publication, Estimating Dry Matter Intake of Dairy Heifers.

Two notable findings from the study include:

  • Heifer dry matter intake as a percent of body weight decreases as body weight increases, but the relationship is not a straight line. The researchers illustrate this finding in this two-page publication. They also provide an equation that can be used to estimate the dry matter intake of dairy heifers as a percent of body weight.
  • Dry matter intake is influenced by dietary fiber. During the study, dairy heifers consumed a near-constant 1.0 percent of their body weight as neutral detergent fiber (NDF). This finding is important, say the researchers, because heifers consuming low-NDF diets (i.e. corn silage) will eat more feed than heifers consuming high-NDF diets like straw and mature forages.

The publication was authored by Patrick Hoffman and Kimberly Kester of the UW-Madison Department of Dairy Science. For more information, read Estimating Dry Matter Intake of Dairy Heifers
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