Feeding Behaviors of Dairy Cattle
What does a dairy cow eat, and how is cattle diet determined? If you’ve ever wondered what the producers of your favorite dairy products are ingesting, know that you’re not alone. Knowing what dairy cattle eat is also crucial for your diet—remember, anything they’re eating is something you’re eating, too! Whether you’re raising cattle or are just a dairy enthusiast, take some time to learn the basics of cattle feeding behaviors.
What do dairy cows eat?
Cattle feed can come in three forms: pelletized food, fresh grains and pellets, or block feed. Each will have the essential nutrients cows need daily to stay healthy and create healthy dairy products. Cattle should mostly eat forage, such as grass and hay. However, if the forage becomes insufficient, you can supplement it with salt and other minerals to ensure they sustain a healthy diet.
How much food do they eat per day?
Dairy cows go through a lot of food per day! High-producing dairy cows eat roughly 110-120 pounds of wet food daily or 50-55 pounds of dry food. Approximately 30-35 pounds of the diet should come from hay and forage, and 25 pounds should be grain mix.
Who decides the diet of dairy cattle?
Diets are determined by professional nutritionists who know what each cow in the herd needs. Nutritionists examine the amount of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals required so that each cow eats tailored to its body type. You would be surprised how much each bite that a dairy cow is examined—down to the vitamins, calcium, and protein levels!
Are there any feeding tips I should know?
If there’s anything to remember with feeding, it’s the importance of watering, too. Though the amount of water each cow needs can vary depending on weight, age, and environment, water intake can directly affect diet. The less water cows drink, the less they eat, and the lower quality dairy they’ll produce. To prevent this from happening, ensure you’re always offering a water source for your cattle.
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