The main aim of keeping cattle by men is to convert less valuable products (feedstuff) into valuable products like milk and meat, at a profit. The feeding of dairy cattle is a very important aspect of the whole dairy enterprise, as good milk production will only be realized with a properly fed dairy cow. Dairy cattle kept with zero grazing conditions depend entirely on what and how much the farmer feeds them. Knowledge about feeding his/her dairy cattle properly will be of great importance for the farmer in order to obtain an economic production from his animals.
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The milk production cycle of a dairy cow can be divided into the following stages:
a). Dry period (the last two month of the pregnancy)
b). Early lactation (the first two months after calving)
c). Mid and late lactation.
The aim of feeding should be to reach an economic milk production. Roughage alone will not provide all the required nutrients, especially not early lactation. Therefore concentrates should be fed in addition to good roughage. A high return of feeding concentrates can be expected when concentrates are fed during early lactation.
The cow will reach normally its highest daily milk yield around 6-8 weeks after calving : the so called peak-yield. This peak yield determines very much the total milk-yield during the rest of the lactation. A cow fed properly in the Beginning of the lactation and reaching high peak-yield will produce more milk during her lactation (even if not fed adequately during the rest of the lactation) than a cow which is fed poorly during the early lactation stage.
A dry pregnant cow during the last 2 months of pregnancy needs feed for:
a). Growth of the calf
b). Restoring body weight lost during the previous lactation
c). Catering of reserves for the next lactation. The aim of feeding the dry pregnant cow
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