Editor’s note: The following involves Naji Nassereddine, independent dairy nutritionist from Chandler, Ariz.

Last July, an Arizona dairyman was having problems with low butterfat and inconsistent milk production. So, he called nutritionist Naji Nassereddine for help.

The dairyman was not looking for increased milk production, necessarily — especially in late summer — but help in lowering his feed cost and improving the health of his cows. In the summer heat, his cows seemed tired and stressed out.

After looking at the rations being fed, Nassereddine knew he could make improvements that would not only keep the cows healthy, but also improve butterfat.

“I went back to the basics,” he says.

Whoever had been feeding the cows before was feeding them more like a Holstein herd than a Jersey herd, Nassereddine says. The farm had also increased the proportion of forages in the ration, hoping that would help get the butterfat percentage back up, but it was more than the Jerseys could handle, especially in the summer, Nassereddine adds.

Nassereddine replaced some of the ration with by-products such as corn gluten feed and wheat middlings. But alfalfa hay and corn remained the foundation. He lowered the amount of forage in proportion to concentrate, “which is contrary to what a lot of people think, but this is what the Jersey needs, especially in summer,” he says.

“By balancing the amount of starch and the amount of forage for a Jersey herd, that solved the problem,” he said.

This occurred at the end of July 2011. A few weeks later, in mid-August, the farm was saving 66 cents per cow per day on feed cost and getting 6 pounds more milk per cow per day, on average. Butterfat percentage increased from 3.9 to 4.5 percent. And protein increased from 3.7 percent to 4 percent.

Again, it was a time of year when milk production normally goes down in Arizona.

Bottom line: You can’t feed a Jersey herd the same way you would feed a Holstein herd. “A Jersey is a whole different animal,” Nassereddine says.