Dairy At Glance


Keshab Barmana, Dipanjali Konwarb, A.S. Bhate , Jakir Hussainc, M. Shaheend,

aAsst. Prof., Animal Nutrition; cAsstt. Prof., LPM, dAsstt. Prof., Vet. Medicine; eAssoc. Prof., LPM, Cattle Research Station, SKUAST-Kashmir, Safapora, Manasbal, Kashmir-193504; bAsstt. Prof. Division of LPM, F.V.Sc. & A.H., SKUAST-Jammu, R.S.Pura, Jammu-181102.


Proper managements play a vital role for successful dairy farming. Various management practices have been followed in a dairy farm. Among the most vital aspects of management includes feeding management, housing management, health management, quality control management etc.

Feeding management

Grouping Managements to encourage feed intake as per requirement

Several management and physical changes may be needed in the dairy operation to adequately feed the high producing dairy cows.

Dry cows 

The most common grouping strategy is to group cows based upon time before calving. Prepartum cows are grouped in a far off dry and a closed up transition group. The transition group includes cows at approximately 21 days before expected calving. This division helps in providing higher energy and protein in the ration when they are needed and intake begin to decrease.

Mature lactating cows

Currently there are several criteria used to group lactating dairy cows which include level of milk production, age or lactation number, days in milk or stage of lactation and reproductive status. Although the grouping strategy varies from farm to farm, but the most commonly recommended strategy is grouping by level of production. This practice may allow efficient use of the feed inventory since high quality feed may be supplied to high producing cows whereas poorer quality lower price feed may be fed to low producing cows. Grouping by production level also offer an advantage of being able to better manage feed allocation so as to not underfeed high producing cows or overfeed low producing cows. It is time consuming for formulation of rations for different categories of cows, however, increase in milk production and persistency should overweigh these disadvantages. Grouping the herd based on level of production also help in efficient use of milking parlour since group should be milked out more uniformly  and at similar times. In addition reproductive disorder, breeding and pregnancy related diseases are usually confined to higher producing groups, thereby increasing the veterinarian’s detection efficiency of herd health check up and routine reproductive checks up of the dairy herd. 

Young lactating cows

Younger animals usually have a lower intake and faced with the social challenged of integrating into the herd. When producers decide to separate first calvers from the large mature animals they are able to provide younger animals a higher nutrient dense ration in a less threatening environment. Many producers also choose to separate the first lactation cows so that they may be monitored more closely during early lactation and may regroup them when they reach the end of lactation.

Other aspects of feeding management

An important component of any feeding system is to properly monitor the body condition score of cow. Body condition should be recorded during the first month of freshening. The body condition score during the first two months of lactation is very critical and milk production peaks may be lower in poorly conditioned cows. In contrast, over conditioned cows may be susceptible to metabolic disorders, mastitis or reproductive problems.

An effective assessment of a nutrition programme requires accurate routine production records that include milk yield, fat and protein production. The composition of milk produced is influence by the amount of energy supplied as well as amount and type of protein and amino acids supplied.  As a consequence estimated of herd performance is needed to match the nutrients supplied in the ration with the expected level of fat and protein production. Accurate body weight data also may be useful in balancing rations and may be monitored to evaluate changes in body tissue reserve.

Feeding management to increase components of milk yield

Proper feeding management of dairy herds can both improve the economy of production and provide a healthier cow. To achieve this target, producers must feed to increase production of milk with maximum levels of milk fat and protein. Milk solids component includes fat, protein, lactose and minerals. Normal value for milk fat typically ranges from 3.7 % (Holstein) to 4.9 % (Jersey). Milk protein ranges from 3.1 % (Holstein) to 3.8 % (Jersey). Lactose is usually 4.6 to 4.8 % for all breeds and minerals (ash) averages 0.74 %. Normal milk fat also reflect good rumen and cow health. Generally diets which cause low milk fat test also cause sore feet or laminitis, acidosis and feed intake problems. Milk protein has economic value as higher protein leads to higher cheese yields (Grant and Kononoff, 2007).

            Factors which affect milk composition include genetics, stage of lactation, level of milk production, environment, disease (Mastitis) and nutrition. The variation in milk composition is governed by heredity up to a level of 55 % and rest 45 % is governed by environmental factors such as feeding management. The milk solid content of the milk can be increased by maximizing feed intake from properly mixed ration with adequate protein, energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The importance of maximizing feed intake is related to minimizing negative energy balance during early lactation. As cows move into positive energy balance, body weight regained, losses in body condition score are recovered and cows produce milk with normal fat and protein composition. Increased feed intake may increase milk protein by 0.2 to 0.3 units (Grant and Kononoff, 2007). High producing dairy cow should eat 3.6 to 4.0 percent of their body weight or more daily dry matter. Increased feeding frequency may increase fat percentage, especially with diet which are low fiber and high in concentrate. The greatest response is observed in diets with <45 % forage or concentrate is fed separately. When diets are fed as total mixed rations, frequency of feeding is not as important, as long as feed remains palatable, fed at least once daily. Non fiber carbohydrate (NFC) should be ranged between 30 to 40 %. Diets with large amount of high quality roughages with minimum amount of grain may be NFC deficient. While feeding the proper amount of NFC, producers can only improve both fat and protein % of the milk. However, over feeding of NFC leads to milk fat depression of one unit or more and increase the protein content of milk by 0.2 to 0.3 units. The amount of concentrate fed per feeding should be restricted to 3 kg only in order to prevent fat depression, acidosis and off feed problems (Grant and Kononoff, 2007).

            Fiber is a key component in dairy rations. When nutritionist are faced with herd challenges such as low milk fat test, foot problems or low feed conversions, then ration fiber is often evaluated. Fiber content of the ration also influence the composition of milk. Fiber requirements of the dairy cattle include both fiber concentration and fiber particle size which contribute to the effectiveness of a fiber source for stimulating rumination (cud chewing), salivation and maintaining normal milk fat and protein composition. Minimum acid detergent fiber (ADF) levels required in the ration dry matter are 19 to 21 %. Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) should not fall below 25 to 28 %. Below these level cow suffers from low milk fat test, acidosis, lameness, chronic feed intake fluctuations and poor body condition especially in early lactation. To assure adequate particle length, fodders should not be chopped to less than 3/8 inch. Of the NDF in typical diets, 75 % should be come from long or coarsely chopped forage. Mertens (1997) has suggested that a TMR should contain a minimum of 22 % effective fiber (NDF) to adequately stimulate the amount of chewing activity required to maintain a average rumen pH of greater than 6.0. Mertens (1997) proposed that the effective fiber of TMR can be calculated by measuring the proportion of dry matter retained on a 1.18 mm sieve after the sieve is vertically shaken. Because particle greater than 1.18 mm are believe to be highly resistant to passage out of the rumen. For lactating cows, the recommended minimum concentration of NDF is 25 of the diet dry matter with 19 % of forage origin. When the amount of fiber from forage is less than 15 % the amount of NDF in the diet should be at least 33 percent DM (Kononoff, 2005)

            Ration should also contain adequate amount of protein. For cows in early lactation (90 to 120 days in milk), the amount of bypass protein should range from 33 to 40 %. A minimum of 33 % rumen undegradable protein (as a % of crude protein) is necessary to maintain normal milk protein levels. Overfeeding of crude protein may leads to excessive nitrogen excretion and environmental pollution. Feeding excessive degradable protein such as urea can reduce milk protein. Urea should make up only 1 to 2 % of the concentrate mixture to maintain palatability (Grant and Kononoff, 2007).

Importance of Supplemental fat to high yielder

            In high producing dairy cows there is an increase demand of glucose, energy and amino acids (threonon, lysine and methionine is the most limiting amino acids for milk production). In order to meet high energy demand during early lactation (within 120 days of lactation) fat % in the ration has to be increased. However, fat level in the diet should not exceed 5 % in the total diet to prevent fat depression.  Therefore, bypass fat supplementation is necessary. Fat supplementation is very much responsive when a cow produces more than 25 kg milk per day. It is necessary to follow guidelines while feeding fat to avoid drop in milk protein content. If supplemented properly added fat slightly increase milk fat percentage, relatively little change in milk protein content and increase milk production. Supplementation of niacin @ 6-12 g per day, may correct the milk protein depression while supplementing high level of fat. Fat feeding should be restricted to cows in early lactation (<120 days in milk) (Grant and Kononoff, 2007). Supplementation of cotton seed cake increase milk yield. Fat in cotton seed is primarily unsaturated, but is slowly digested and does not decrease rumen digestion as that of other unsaturated fat. Adding whole cotton seed to the rations increases milk fat percentage by 0.2 to 0.3 %. The safe level of feeding cotton seed per cow per day is 2.5 to 3.0 kg (Kononoff et al., 2005). Calcium salts of fatty acids can also be used as a source of bypass fat.

            Fat supplementation also boost fertility in cows. Nutritional formulations are not just for milk production but can have a dramatic impact on reproductive function. Some supplemental fats, including calcium salts of palm oil, calcium salts of vegetable oils high in linoleic acid, calcium salts of blend of C18:1 isomers plus linoleic acids and sources of fish oil have been reported to significantly improve the reproductive performance of dairy cows. Although supplemental fat can improve the energy status of cattle, the improvement in reproductive function appears to be mediated to by several other mechanisms including the alleviation of a fatty acid deficiency, challenges in tissue lipid profile that promote favourable endocrine changes that can lead to improve ovarian/uterine function, better embryo survival and improve fertilization rate and or a more competent immune system.

Management of dairy cattle

Managing dairy cattle for comfort

            The goal of every dairy producer should be to provide housing and milking environment that promote cow comfort, milk production and herd health. The successful producers will create a cow environment that minimizes stress, excessive competition for feed and water, and potential for injury. Tiestall or freestall should be maintained properly. Stall should provide a clean, dry and comfortable location to lie down. The stall’s dimension and design should allow the cow to stand up and lie down naturally. Cow should also be provided with good bedding materials like straw, sawdust, sand and shredded news paper. The choice is often determined by the manure handling system. Any bedding must keep cows clean and dry while minimizing micro-organism in the environment. Keeping stall well bedded maximizes moisture absorption, provide resilience, makes stall comfortable and reduce potential for injury. Most cow prefer a 4 % slope from front to rear of the stall. The stall surface with bedding should be free of potholes. Cow comfort can also be increase by providing adequate ventilation in the stall. The ventilation systems in the dairy should prevent high humidity in winter and heat build up in summer. Freestall fronts and partition should be open enough to allow air movement across the cow. The sign of poor ventilation in the shed include smell of ammonia, excessive coughing, nasal discharge or open mouth breathing by the cows. If the floor is concrete, it should be grooved to make it less slippery (Keown and Kononoff, 2007).

Dry cow management for maximum milk production

The optimum calving interval for cow is 365 days. The normal lactation length is 305 days with 60 days dry period. The calving interval is the most important factor for maximizing income from the sale of milk. It is necessary to maintain a calving interval of 365 days in order to get maximum profit by adopting certain management practices which include – routine herd health programme, breeding of cows at first observed heat 50 days after freshening, routine and effective heat diagnosis programme, making artificial insemination by a skilful veterinarian, detection of pregnancy at 30 – 60 days after breeding and maintaining a balance feeding programme. Heat detection influences conception rates. Cows should be inseminated approximately 12 hours after standing heat.

Dairy health management for optimum production and reproduction

Maintaining a healthy herd is a constant challenge to today’s dairy producer. For successful and profitable dairy farming the producer should look after the animal health (calves, replacement heifers and cows), reproductive performance, genetics, nutrition and udder health. Reducing some programme practices to improve short term gain may result in counterproductive in log term. Eliminating veterinary programmes, record keeping, computer use etc. can lead to long term losses in herd performance and profitability. Proper dairy health management includes disease prevention by providing proper nutrition, total management effort and a clean, dry comfortable environment, along with properly designed housing facilities, necessary dairy equipments, manure management etc. The veterinary services include vaccine use for disease prevention, consultation to reduce metabolic and other diseases, mastitis control, pregnancy examinations, infertility diagnoses, along with proper treatment to eliminate drug residues in foods of animal origin.

            Maintaining good records is a vital managmental practices for dairy farming.  An individual lifetime health record must be developed and maintained for each cow. Important information to be recorded includes date of birth, vaccinations, date of AI or breeding date, date of calving, condition at calving, past health problems, treatment given and other relevant data. Keeping of other record such as daily milk yield is most important as they can provide early evidence of potential problems. Reduction in milk yield may be a reason of sickness or an indication for estrous.

            Veterinary services play an important role in dairy herd health management practices. A veterinarian should examine all heifers that have failed to show signs of heat prior to 14 months of age. Cows with retained placenta should be examined by the veterinarian within 24 to 72 hours after calving. Manual removal of placenta is not recommended. Prostaglandins can be used for such purpose. Prostaglandins are capable of enhancing placenta removal, and improving uterine condition after calving by reducing uterine infection and stimulating ovarian cyclicity. All cows should be examined about 30 days following calving to determine the condition of the entire reproductive tract.

The goals for efficient reproductive health programme include an average calving interval between 12 to 13th months, breeding efficiency below 1.5 services per conception and less than 30 % returns after 60 days, post partum interval to first standing heat between 30 to 40 days, post partum interval to first breeding no longer than 55 to 70 days, repeat breeder of 8 to 10 % or less, abnormal anestrous after 60 days postpartum less than 2 to 15 %, abortion record of 1 to 2 % or less, retained placenta of 5 to 10 % or less, metritis record of 5 to 10 % or less, culling % for reproductive failure below 15 %, cystic follicle of 5 to 15 % or less (Keown et al, 2006).

Other management aspects of dairy cattle

Managing photoperiods

Photoperiod manipulation is a management tool that stimulates milk production by increasing the efficiency of the cow. It is cost-effective, simple, and does not involve extra labor. It's as simple as leaving on the lights where the cows eat and rest. It can be implemented in any operation regardless of facilities or cow numbers. In general, milk yield increases eight to ten percent on long days, and cows eventually increase intake six to seven percent to support the greater milk yield. Aim for providing reasonably bright light for 16 hours and darkness for eight hours each day. Even installation costs of improved lighting may be offset in little more than one year.

Four times-a-day milking

Milking cows four times a day can lead to production increases of 29 to 30 percent over two-times-a-day milking and 9 to 14 percent over three-times-a-day milking. Consider milking recently fresh cows four times daily. This can be accomplished quite easily by milking them at the beginning and end of each milking shift. Research shows that 21 days of four-times-a-day milking early in lactation can increase yield throughout lactation. Milking intervals do not need to be exactly uniform to obtain a response.

Prepartum milking of first-calf heifers

Recent research has shown that milking heifers starting three weeks before their expected calving date may have some benefits. These heifers have less severe incidence of edema, produce more milk soon after calving, and are less stressed at calving. With the price of replacements, it is good to have happy healthy heifers and get them off to a quick start.

Quality control management for clean milk production

            The whole purpose of dairy production is to provide a nutritious food for human consumption. After having bred, fed and managed the dairy cows to ensure the highest possible milk production, the final step is to harvest the milk efficiently and hygienically. Milk is a highly perishable products and one which can serve as an excellent medium for growth of bacteria.

Preparation of udder

Good preparation for milking helps to let down and also produces the contamination of milk by bacteria from the outer surface of the udder. There are four steps to prepare the udder for milking which includes proper checking, stripping, washing and drying. Udder should be checked for any evidence of mastitis by feeling for any swelling, hardness, heat or soreness. Strip out a few strips of milk into a strip cup and check for clot, strings or wateriness. The practice of forestripping is needed to check for mastitis, to eliminate the high numbers of bacteria normally found in foremilk and to stimulate milk let down. Wash the udder with warm water containing a mild disinfectant. Use of sanitizer during udder washing help in decreasing the bacterial count in milk. The proper concentration of chlorine sanitizer is 50 to 200 ppm, for iodine 12.5 to 25 ppm for udder washing. After washing paper towel should be used to dry the udder. Never use a towel on more than one cow. Fresh and antibiotic treated cows should be milk at the last after milking the other cows (Keown and Kononoff, 2006). The excessive wetting of the udder should be avoided as the water draining down on to the teats will increase bacterial loading.

After milking

Immediately after milking , the teats should be dipped in a mild disinfectant. This is an important step in reducing the incidence of mastitis infections. Fresh dip should be made every day. Solution used for teat dip include chlorhexidine (0.5 %), iodine (0.5 to 1 %) and hypochlorite (4 %). Iodine compounds must be low in phosphoric acid and hypochlorite low in sodium hydroxide to avoid chapping or irritation of teats.

Cleanliness of the milking area and the milk house is very important in maintaining low bacterial count. To assure low bacterial count in milk, equipments should be washed immediately after use and should be sanitized it just before every milking. Equipments and utensils should be rinse with 100 to 115 0F water immediately after completing milking. Alkaline cleaner are used to remove residual milk and help prevent milk stone build up. Proper refrigeration of the bulk milk is needed to ensure a quality product. Storage at temperature below 40 0F prevents the growth of most bacteria that cause diseases. Milk should be cooled to 40 0F within two hours.

            Proper scientific managements of dairy cows are necessary for profitable dairy farming. Feeding of different categories of cows in separate environment is necessary in order to meet nutrients requirement as per their requirement. Therefore, grouping of cows into dry, high producer, low producer and young lactating cows is necessary. Moreover, management of cows for comfort is also important for maximum production. The other aspects of scientific managements such as health management, photoperiod management, milking frequency, pre calving milking including quality control managements for clean milk production can not be ignored for profitable dairy farming.     


Grant, R. and Kononoff, P.J. 2007. Feeding to maximize milk protein and fat yields. http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1358/build/g1358.pdf

Kononoff, P.J. 2005. Understanding effective fiber in ration s for dairy cattle. http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1587/build/g1587.pdf

                    Kononoff, P.J., Keown, J.F., Grant, R.J. 2005. Supplemental fat for high producing dairy

cows . http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1581/build/g1581.pdf

Keown, J.F., kononoff, P.J. and Larson, L.L. 2006. Dairy Health Management for optimum production and reproductive performance. http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1285/build/g1285.pdf

Keown, J.F. and Kononoff, P.J. 2006. Producing milk with a low bacterial count. http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g678/build/g678.pdf

Keown, J.F. and Kononoff, P.J. 2007. Managing dairy cattle for cow comfort and maximum intake, http://www. ianrpubs.unl. edu/epublic/live /g1660/build /g1660.pdf

Mertens, D.R. 1997. Creating a system for meeting the fiber requirements of dairy cows. Journal of dairy science, 80: 1463-1481.

Akshay Sadana

Posted Date : 31/03/2015 Posted By : Admin