A rapid transition to a higher forage diet during the early post-weaned phase can be stressful on dairy heifers. Although ensiled forages are a common feed choice during this time, are they ideal for maintaining growth and feed efficiency?     

To find out, researchers from Purdue University fed diets consisting of dry hay as the primary forage source (40 percent of diet dry matter) or ensiled forage in the form of baleage. They fed the dry hay or baleage to 313-pound heifers for four weeks.

Study results showed that average daily gain was greater for heifers fed dry hay versus heifers fed baleage (2.23 pounds versus 1.96 pounds). The hay-fed heifers also had better gain-to-feed ratios than the baleage-fed heifers (0.16 pound gain/pound feed vs. 0.08 pound gain/pound feed during the fourth week of the trial).

The research was presented at the 2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and the American Society of Animal Science.

For more advice on feeding and growth goals for Holstein heifers less than 6 months of age, please see the Gold Standards I. Target growth goals for older heifers can be found in the Gold Standards II.

This tip from the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association is funded by the Beef Checkoff