Israel has become a worldwide leader in the dairy industry by developing innovative farm technology and dairy herd management strategies. One of the favorite strategies of Israeli dairy farmer is grouping dairy cows. This is a tactic that groups cows by their nutrition needs for the best of the cows and the farmers don’t end up wasting feed.
What Is Cow Grouping?
A standard dairy farm might feed the same mix feed ration to the entire herd, typically feeding to the needs of the highest producing cows. Cows that are producing less, however, don’t need as high a concentration of nutrients. This means that farmers are paying more for food, and they’re dealing with excess excrement. Cow grouping is a strategy that’s developed over the past few decades to make feeding more efficient. The principle is to divide cows into multiple groups based on feeding needs. You can then feed these cows separately to make sure you’re meeting each group’s nutrition needs while managing costs.
Principles of Grouping Dairy Cows
There are different ways of grouping dairy cows that different farms might find most effective, depending on their parlor setup and how they may already be grouping their herd. You might choose to group, for instance, by location on the production curve, reproductive status, or pure daily milk production. The most direct way to group for feeding, however, is based on the nutrients each cow requires per pound of feed. This enables farmers to adjust their feed ratio with precision. The strategy we usually advise is to choose a feed ratio that’s about halfway between what the average cow and highest producing cow in the group needs. This ensures that the highest producers are getting adequate nutrients without being wasteful.
Challenges to Grouping Dairy Cows
There are a few practical challenges to implementing feeding groups on your farm. The first is how much space you have. You can only create as many groups as you have room for in your barns and milking parlor. And you’ll also need to consider the additional time it will take to feed groups separately. The key is to strike a balance between the money you’ll save on excess feed and the resources spent on multiple groups of feeding. For most farms, between two and four groups is the optimal number. You’ll also need the data to inform your group divisions. If you’re dividing based on nutrition needs, you’ll need individual nutrition profiles for each cow. For some farms, dividing based on daily milk production may be simpler.
Learn More about Grouping Dairy Cows in Israel
If you’d like to learn more about dairy cow grouping in practice, and to develop strategies you can apply to your own farm, you may want to attend a seminar at the Israeli Dairy School. The school’s summer seminars offer expert training in dairy nutrition and herd management. Press here to learn about our next Seminar