Kells’ personal experience indicates that limit feeding requires pens to be slightly under-stocked to allow for ample bunk space.
7. FEEDING TOO MUCH STRAW – Straw is a popular component of heifer rations, but it can be too much of a good thing. Kells says sometimes heifers can’t physically consume enough of the ration if straw levels are too high. And Colburn has seen cases in which mixer wagons couldn’t handle the straw volume, leading to poorly mixed rations and particle sorting.
8. USING REFUSALS FROM THE LACTATING HERD – Colburn says this practice can be a “body condition nightmare,” because both the nutrient content and the sheer volume of available feed for heifers can vary so much. Plus, lactating ration formulation usually is not ideal for heifers. “The biggest problem we see is that heifers will get too fat on refusals when levels are not highly regulated,” says Colburn. “In our area, herds are having more success feeding refusals to late-lactation animals and/or partitioning them to heifers.”
9. FEEDING RATIONS TOO HIGH IN MOISTURE – TMRs with high silage content are likely to be highly palatable and readily consumed. The downside, says Colburn, is that as intakes go up, cost of gain can become less efficient. He advises adding straw to lower moisture content and slow the ration’s rate of passage.
10. NOT MEASURING PERFORMANCE – If there’s an upside to today’s tight margins, Kells says it’s the awareness that the current dairy economy has brought to performance evaluation. “You can’t improve what you don’t measure, and that’s everything from regular heifer weight and height measurements to ration costs to cost per pound of gain,” he advises. “An even bigger-picture analysis would be the lifetime value of every dairy cow — what it cost to raise her versus the return she provided, then working to improve those values for the herd over time.”