Israeli Dairy School dairy herd
management training center

Feeding Strategy & Diet formulation for the Dairy Herd

by Dr. Ofer Kroll

Dairy Feeding strategy & Diet formulation for the Dairy Herd

By Dr. Ofer Kroll

The general approach in Israel Dairy feeding strategy is to maintain two feeding groups: one for early lactation and another for the rest of the milking cows. In family farms, the one-diet method is the most popular one. Ad-libitum feeding, mainly with TMR and minimal transfer of cows between groups is the preferred feeding method in Israel.

Ration Programming and Feeding Practices

Optimal planning and rationing have always been desirable goals from a professional and economic point of view; however, special care must be taken while adjusting planning to management.

Dairy feeding strategy: Feed Intake

Group feeding system using a weighing-mixer wagon represents an important management tool for dairy farms: it improves feed efficiency and rumen fermentation and provides control of feed intake.

An average daily feed intake in dry matter (DM), ranges from 3.0 to 4.0% of cow’s body weight (BW) and is influenced by milk yield, days after calving, ration composition, NDF content, forage to concentrate ratio, particle size and density of ration. In Israel, the influence of the hot season has a sound effect, contributing to a 10-15% decline in feed intake in summer as compared to winter.

Feed intake, especially for cows at peak lactation, constitutes the major limiting factor for providing nutrients. This is the starting point in any system for rationing and planning. Perhaps, if in the future we count on protected proteins and fats, we shall be able to overcome the limitation of conventional energy intake.

Feeding TMR ad-libitum, we can record data of grouped feed intake, but not of individual cows. It appears that the maximum individual intake by high-yielding cows reaches up to 4% of their BW (or NDF intake up to 1.3% of BW).

Dairy Feeding

Energy Level

Until the end of the 70s, the Scandinavian Feed Unit (FU) system was commonly employed for rationing in Israel. It used the average norm of 5 FU/day for maintenance and 0.3-0.4 FU/kg of milk. Since the available amount of roughage is limited, this led to feeding cows with 17-18 kg of concentrates per day, resulting in low feed efficiency. With the increased use of the Metabolic and Net energy (ML, NEL) systems and their higher evaluation of roughage, the importance of roughage was emphasized. Evidently, manipulation of the feeding level cannot be achieved by changing the amount of concentrates.

Today, it is common to use the ME/NEL system for energy evaluation and NDF or ADF for intake and energy estimation. NRC 89-01 in addition to local experience, are the main guidelines for feeding high-producing dairy cows. Under the local low-quantity/low-quality roughage conditions, high energy concentration is a common practice. The energy concentration for high-yielding cows is 1.76-1.77 Mcal NEL/kg DM. Ration fat is 3% to 5%, and various sources of starches are always included.


Years ago, 500-550 grams of crude protein for maintenance and about 70 g/kg of milk were a typical allowance. Today, In the TMR system, 16%-16.7% crude protein is the requirement for high-yielding cows (in summer and winter, respectively). About 34%-36% of the total protein is UIP (Undegradable Intake Protein), and a large variety of protein sources are a common solution to cover the needs for the different amino acids. Cows in early lactation may be given 18-19% protein/DM.


Under Israel’s feeding conditions, it is important to estimate the animal’s requirement for NDF, which will allow normal rumen function. The use of intermediate feeds, such as wheat bran or orange peel, takes the amount of NDF to a total of 6-6.6 kg/day (30%-34% of total DM), but forage NDF is not more than 3.4-3.6 kg (17%-18% of total DM). Particular attention must be paid to the physical structure of feeds; straw and similar stuff, when finely chopped, lose some of their efficiency as roughage.

Additional Measures

For a correct design of rations, especially when using computerized linear programming, some basic assumptions may not have any justification in literature or in research but appear -from field experience under local conditions- to influence feed intake and performance.

Regarding intermediate feeds, feeds containing large amounts of highly digestible carbohydrates -such as orange peels- are limited to 15% of total DM. This group of foodstuffs also includes liquid whey, which is extensively used in dairy feeding.

In the summer, intake declines. Then, it is recommended to provide better quality forage to minimize climatic effects. Cooling cows using sprinklers and ventilation can lower body temperatures by 1-2ºC and enhance feed intake.

General Observations

Ad-libitum feeding of dairy cows is the common practice in Israel since the 50′s. The goal is to take full advantage of the genetic potential of the animal.
The main problems to be dealt with remain:

  • How to increase intake and energy supply to animals.
  • How to deal with digestibility of feeds especially when very good forage is not available or in reduced supply.
  • How to balance maximum yields with maximum profit.

It seems that simple and properly balanced diets, minimum transfer of cows between groups, with the support of good housing, health control, fertility and breeding are the key to success for any dairy farm.

Heifer’s management

Heifers rearing is one of the most important tasks in dairy farming. We aim for high, tall, and not-fat animals. To achieve such goals, we use high energy concentrations at early ages and gradually change to lower levels. At calving (24-25 Mo), BW of 560-600 kg and 138-140 cm of height, are regular. Mistakes during the rearing process of heifers cannot be corrected later, during the productive stages.

Dry cow management

The dry period is of utmost importance in the dairy cow life. A suitable diet may contain high amounts of forage (75-80%) and it includes wheat silage, hay and some wheat straw, supplemented by soybean meal, barley, corn and vitamins. The aim for the dry period length is about 60 days. Extra supplies of energy and protein are planned for the last 2-3 weeks prior to calving.

Example of an Israeli diet composition for Lactating Cows

Under Israel’s conditions, water is a large problem (amount and cost). Therefore, the forage content in most cow diets is only about 30%. Furthermore, most of the protein sources and grains are imported, meaning their availability hinges on supply and costs at international markets. Given these challenges and to address gaps in our nutritional knowledge, the most prevalent approach to rationing involves incorporating a diverse range of ingredients.

For your Free Ebook Dairy Cow Nutrition Management>>press here

Nutrients (on DM basis)

Net Energy for Lactation – NEL

1.74 Mcal

Crude Protein


Forage dry matter

32.6 %


30 %

Forage NDF

18 %

Ingredients (% of total, on DM basis)

Barley grain (rolled)  


CMS + Urea


Maize grain     


Wheat Silage


Wheat grain


Wheat Hay


Soda-treated rye grain


Alfalfa Hay


Soda-treated cotton seeds 




Soybean meal (44%)               




Corn gluten feed                    




Rapeseed meal            




Sunflower meal (37%)            


Soda Bicarbonate


Wheat barn


Magnesium Oxide


Citrus peel    


Vitamin Premix*


Protected Fat               


*Vitamin A, D, E, microelements, biotin, yeast culture

For more information, you are welcome to visit our Dairy Herd Nutrition Seminar

Get your Free copy Dairy Cow Nutrition Management>>Press Here

Learn about Forage Quality

Forage Management Key Factor in Dairy Feeding

Israeli Dairy Industry Facts and Figures

Contact us on WhatsApp

Dairy Herd Nutrition Management E Book

Dairy Herd Nutrition Management By Dr Ofer Kroll, Senior Israeli Dairy Nutritionist You can buy it now.
Get Now

The Israeli Dairy School Brochure in your language