Straw-rich whole feed is a robust solution throughout the dry period.
It is not difficult to meet the energy and nutritional standards for dry cows. However, feeding in the dry period aims to mould the cow for a large production capacity and the best health condition around and after calving. This is why a feeding strategy is important.
Two strategies in particular have gained widespread use:
1. Feeding with the same ration according to appetite throughout the dry period, with one low energy (straw) ration. We call this strategy “controlled feed level”.
2. Dividing the cows into two groups, where the cows are fed according to the norm in the first weeks of the dry period, and then increasing the feed and protein levels in the last two to three weeks before calving.
Strategy 1, “controlled feed level”, is the most robust and the one that is largely recommended where possible. This kind of feeding gives the largest feed intake after calving and thus the smallest negative energy balance.
When using Strategy 1, dry cows should eat at least 3.5 kilos of straw a day (Jersey 2.5). Finely cut straw mixed in the whole feed is an obvious way to regulate the cows’ feed and intake. The straw must be finely cut (25-30 mm) and well mixed with other more energy rich feed so the cows cannot separate the straw particles.
Strategy 2 is well known in many herds and can produce good results in healthy well-cared for cows.