Limit feeding – Limit-feeding strategies have been researched at Penn State (Zanton and Heinrichs, 2007) and at Wisconsin (Hoffman et al., 2007). These trials demonstrated that heifers perform similarly on less dry matter, resulting in improved feed efficiency. Limit feeding increases meal frequency, decreases meal length and increases variability in live weight gain within pens. To implement limit feeding, feed a more nutrient-dense ration and feed less of it. Elevate crude protein and energy levels to maintain the same daily intake; or, feed less of the same ration and, if successful, it probably means some nutrients were fed in excess; or, use a combination of the two. To consider this strategy, feed cost, facilities, and management skill as well as available feeds must be factored in. Adequate bunk space is required. It should not be implemented in housing systems using edible bedding.
Feed is expensive, don't waste it – Design feed bunks to control feed waste. Do not provide heifers unlimited feed. Monitor feed intakes and adjust as needed to reduce feed wastage. Hugh Chester-Jones states that, "one of the keys to success in raising heifers is to reduce the variation of growth between heifers within the pen or group." The records of heifers that vary excessively from the average should be examined and a plan of action implemented.
In conclusion, pay attention to efficiencies of your feed delivery system for dairy heifers, reduce competition at the bunk, and provide a well-balanced ration using a TMR. These will help reduce feed costs, promote more consistent nutrient intake, create less variation in growth rates, and result in efficient gains to meet targeted growth and performance goals.