Net energy-lactation (nel) values are often used to formulate and evaluate high-straw, low-energy diets for dry cows. Problem is, confusion exists as to what target NEL values should be, says Jim Drackley, professor of dairy nutrition at the University of Illinois.

To avoid confusion, focus on providing recommended forage NDF intakes — 10 to 12 pounds of forage NDF per cow per day — instead of arriving at a “correct” NEL value. This will help you achieve an appropriate energy density in controlled-energy dry cow diets, Drackley said at the Western Dairy Management Conference.