How Much Should I Feed My Cow?

By: Alan Jefery


This is a common question among cattle herd managers. They usually don’t know how much hay they should feed their cow. Well, nutrition is highly dependent on a variety of factors. Here are some things that you should consider so that you’ll know the right amount.

Consider Your Cow’s Stage of Production

A cow goes through four stages of production: post-calving, pregnancy and late lactation, post-weaning and mid-gestation and pre-calving. Their nutritional needs vary depending on what stage they are in.

In post-calving, your cow needs as much hay as she can eat. With a newborn calf, there is a burden on your cow to nurse her young. Lower nutrition will translate to lower milk production which will negatively affect breeding.

During pregnancy and lactation, your cow does not really need a lot of nutrients. You can use free-choice here and that is all that she needs.

In post-weaning and mid-gestation, the nutritional requirement here is still low.

Last is pre-calving. In this stage, your cow needs a lot of nutrients. The amount that you feed her at this time will show on his calves’ weight and survival.

Weather Can Also Affect Her Nutritional Requirements

Believe it or not, the weather can also affect your cow’s nutritional needs. You see, cows have this so-called ‘thermoneutral zone’ where they are most comfortable. This is neither too hot nor too cold. When the weather goes outside this zone, the cow gets stressed. With stress comes the need of additional nutritional requirements. This means that you need to feed your cow more during freezing winter days or the exceedingly hot summer days.

Bigger Cows Need More Nutrition

This is somewhat self-explanatory. Bigger cows need more nutrition because of their size. As the size of the cow increases, his energy and protein needs also increases.

Adjust His Nutritional Needs Based On His Body

As a cattleman, you should be able to discern if your cow needs more nutrition based on their body. Usually this is rated by the body condition score. Cows are usually rated 1 to 9 with 1 being the thinnest and 9 being the fattest. You should give your cow nutritional supplements based on his score. Your goal should be to reach a body condition score of 5.

Consider the Cow’s Age

A cow’s nutritional requirement can also vary with age. Since growth and reproduction is of utmost importance in this field, it is very important to feed the young cows especially the females with the right amount of food and nutrients. The females will be your breeding group. They will produce more calves for you so you should be your priority.

As you can see, there are different factors that you must consider when feeding your cows. So to answer your question on how much you should feed your cow, I suggest that you feed her the amount that you regularly feed her and then add some nutritional supplements based on the factors above. This will ensure that your cow will always perform at her optimum performance in any stage, environment and situation.

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Author's company is a leading cattle nutrition company and you can buy protein for horses, sheep and cows from Uniblok by visiting their website.

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