Feed intake is determined by many interacting factors and prediction of feed intake is the "Achilles heel" of diet formulation. Many different diet characteristics interact with environment and physiological state of cows, making it difficult to predict feed intake accurately. However, understanding the factors controlling feeding allows us to manipulate diets to optimize feed intake. Eating is controlled by the integration of peripheral signals in brain feeding centers.
It is common knowledge that the early lactating cows do not eat as much feed as they do between the second and third months of lactation period, even though the level of milk production may be the same. Feed intake lags behind peak milk production by about two to four weeks. This results in a negative energy balance and, as such, body reserves are mobilized to overcome the energy deficit, which results in some body weight loss. Although it is normal for high-producing cows to lose weight in early lactation, the energy, and especially the protein, available from body stores can supply only a limited amount of the animals needs. As body fat is mobilized to produce more milk, proportionally more energy is available than protein. Therefore, the percent of protein in the ration during early lactation period should be higher in order to maximize the efficiency of energy utilization and to meet the added protein needs.
Ways in which the educational needs of the dairy clientele in 2020 and beyond are met will change compared to those used in historical and contemporary dairy educational programs. After interacting with dairy clientele (farm managers, agribusiness personnel, veterinarians, educators, and consultants) for over 33 years, new ‘teaching’ approaches and opportunities are appearing and will continue to develop in all sectors of the industry.
Imagine a dairy cow that gave 15,000 litres (33,000 lbs) of high quality milk year, after year, after year, at a high level of efficiency; a cow whose milk had health benefits for the consumer; a cow that got pregnant when you wanted her to; a cow that was highly resistant to infections such as mastitis and whose milk had a consistently low somatic cell count; a cow that never suffered from acidosis and a cow that was never lame. Now imagine a herd of such cows and imagine how profitable it would be!
One of the most common ways for dairy producers to increase milk production is by increasing milking frequency. Frequent milking during early lactation may not only increase milk yield during the frequent milking period, but also produce carry-over effects that last well into lactation. Furthermore, to produce increases in subsequent milk yield, the duration of the intervals between milking do not have to be the same, and frequent milking may only have to occur during the first 3 weeks after calving. By simply manipulating milking schedules, increased milking frequency in early lactation may be a relatively nonÐlabor intensive and economically beneficial way to increase a herd's milk production.