Proper nutrition key to heifer development
By Dairy Calf and Heifer Association
Predicting the dry matter intake of dairy heifers is an important part of heifer nutrition programs, but it can be challenging to estimate for several 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, sheds new light on heifers’ dry matter intakes under commercial-rearing conditions.
The study involved both Holstein and Holstein-Jersey crossbred heifers. The researchers are presenting their findings in a new two-page 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 the animal’s body weight.
- Dry matter intake is influenced by dietary fiber. During the study, dairy heifers consumed a nearly constant 1% 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, such as straw and mature forages.
The publication was authored by Patrick Hoffman and Kimberly Kester of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science.