The Unique Nutritional Needs of Dairy Animals

June 29, 2023

An imbalance in nutrition and poor quality feed can impact the health of dairy animals. Some of the most common problems related to dairy animal nutrition include:

  • Reproduction – poor nutrition can sometimes lead to reproduction failure in cattle, harming additional output that can be derived from livestock. 
  • Rumen acidosis – ruminant species are susceptible to this disease, which results from an intake of feed high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates. This can cause a number of health issues for cows including sudden weight loss and a drop in yield. 
  • Ketosis – is a disorder that involves a high concentration of ketone bodies and low blood glucose levels. This can lead to a decline in energy for the cattle and affects milk production as a result. Ketosis can often be seen in obese cows and can occur in early lactation. 

Dairy cattle are a key part of New Zealand’s agricultural industry. Dairy products are one of this country’s core exports and the sector is reported to contribute close to $23 billion to our national economy

Taking care of our cattle not only ensures the wellbeing of the animals, but also supports one of this nation’s key industries. Well-nourished livestock ensures good performance and produce. 

 As lactating animals, dairy animals have unique nutritional requirements. In this article we look at what their nutritional requirements are, how feed quality contributes to their nutritional needs and the consequences of malnutrition.

 

Nutritional Requirements of Dairy Animals

A dairy animal can be defined as any milk-producing animal. With cattle producing close to 80 percent of world milk production, typically when we think of dairy animals we think of cows.

Cows are a ruminant species. This means their digestive systems are specially designed to process difficult to breakdown materials like grass. During lactation especially, cattle have high nutritional requirements. 

 Cattle need to make sure feed includes a balanced mix of:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Minerals
  • Energy

Common Nutritional Problems in Dairy Animals

An imbalance in nutrition and poor quality feed can impact the health of dairy animals. Some of the most common problems related to dairy animal nutrition include:

  • Reproduction – poor nutrition can sometimes lead to reproduction failure in cattle, harming additional output that can be derived from livestock. 
  • Rumen acidosis – ruminant species are susceptible to this disease, which results from an intake of feed high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates. This can cause a number of health issues for cows including sudden weight loss and a drop in yield. 
  • Ketosis – is a disorder that involves a high concentration of ketone bodies and low blood glucose levels. This can lead to a decline in energy for the cattle and affects milk production as a result. Ketosis can often be seen in obese cows and can occur in early lactation. 
  • Laminitis – this is a disease that affects the hooves. It can be caused by an excess in crude protein and can lead to lameness in cattle. 

 

The role of feed quality in meeting nutritional needs

Between 45-60 percent of the cost in making milk is from keeping dairy cattle fed. With such a big investment in this part of the production process, it’s important dairy animals have the right nutrition.

Optimal feed quality can be ensured by regularly evaluating feed quality and checking feed processing and storage to make sure nothing impacts it in the supply chain.  

Without checks in place, animal feed can be susceptible to mycotoxins and pathogens which enter during the production process or during storage on farm. These can contaminate the feed, which is harmful to the welfare of the animals consuming it. 

At FeedSafeNZ, we uphold standards in the feed production process by carrying out onsite audits (link to new blog) which measure factors such as storage and process, to promote quality as much as possible. 

Proper nutrition is essential for any animal and they all have their own unique needs, which is especially true for dairy animals. It’s important to be aware of common nutritional issues they face and consistently check to make sure their nutritional needs are being met. By growing understanding in this area, we can ensure dairy animals get the right nutrients and stay healthy.  

For more information on animal feed and nutrition, visit the News section of our site for regular updates.

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