A question you will often hear when discussing cattle nutrition is what level of production do you balance for? This question sets the stage for energy, fiber, and ingredient inclusion in the diet.
Wisconsin dairyman and veterinarian Gordie Jones takes a different approach. “I feed cows differently than a lot of people in that I don’t feed them for production,” he said. “I don’t balance for a 80-pound ration, an 90-pound ration, or a 100-pound ration.”
Instead, Jones looks to make each mouthful standardized for his cattle whether they produce 70 pounds or 140.
“Think about this. If you’re really balancing a 95-pound ration, how do you get a cow to milk 160 pounds. It has to eat more of that ration,” Jones explained during the August 5 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
With that thought in mind, Jones challenged producers to throw out the idea of balancing for production and think about how the cow consumes that feed and utilizes it to produce at the level that it can.
“Truly, what we do is balance for mouthfuls,” Jones said. “We make healthy mouthfuls that have the right rate of passage based on our forages. When we review our ration every two weeks, we’re getting a new forage analysis to get us digestibility and neutral detergent fibers (NDFs) so that we can rebalance if we need to.”
The regular testing allows the farm to play to their strengths. If they have good and well-stored forages, they can cut back on additives like mycotoxin binders and bentonites.
“If I can keep my face management right, my pile management, we can take those out,” Jones concluded. “Again, I balance for a mouthful, I feed a single total mixed ration, and then we make sure nothing extra is hanging in that ration.”
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