Transitioning Dairy Cows From Pasture to Winter Feed

One of the many challenges you probably face with grazing is how to help the cows adjust to a new feed source in the fall.  Changing from high-quality pasture to lower-quality stored forages is much like changing silos.  If the change is made too quickly, milk production drops until the cows and the rumen microbes become accustomed to the new feed.  The rumen microbes are especially sensitive to sudden changes, because it takes time to shift their numbers and types to those that are more adapted to lower quality forage. In the fall, the concerns about changing to new feeds are essentially the same as they are in the spring.  However, there are a few new challenges.  The stored forages to be fed are most likely from the most recent growing season.  Since no two growing seasons are the same, the quality of the forages will be different from what was being fed last winter and earlier in the spring.  It is hard to predict how the cows will respond to the new forages, in terms of both intake and performance.  Also, most confinement dairymen will begin feeding out this year’s crop of hay or haylage sometime in the middle of the summer.  This gives them an opportunity to do some fine-tuning before the new crop of corn silage is in.  Once the corn is in and ready to be fed, they can do some additional fine-tuning.  The challenge for many graziers is that this year’s crop may not be fed at all until transition time, and both types of stored forages are being introduc

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