What are your challenges in feeding the organic dairy cow
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What are your challenges in feeding the organic dairy cow. By Peter Griffin. Topics to be covered. Raw materials and Supply Forage availability and quality Dietary imbalances and common dietary shortfalls What research needs to be done going forward?. Raw materials and Supply.

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Topics to be covered
Topics to be covered

  • Raw materials and Supply

  • Forage availability and quality

  • Dietary imbalances and common dietary shortfalls

  • What research needs to be done going forward?

Raw materials and supply
Raw materials and Supply

  • More types of raw materials are becoming available

  • Nearly entirely the same variety of pure raw materials as conventional

  • Better raw material evaluation is needed

  • Progression has been slow to generate new raw material supplies (15 years to develop supply chain)

  • Current raw materials can be utilised more efficiently

  • Improved crop varieties

  • Volumes of organic raw materials are always available, if you know where to look

Forage availability and quality
Forage Availability and Quality


Store crops separately or layer the clamp so its consistent when fed through the winter

“If you can't measure it you can't manage it” if you struggle with grazing rotation invest some time and money in the infrastructure, grass will always be the cheapest feed

Measuring the clamps and getting the dry matter levels of the forage so you can forward predict if you a) need to buy forage or b) need to sell cows

When purchasing forage make sure you get a forage analysis done to help negotiate on price and also assess it against other purchased feeds

If you can grow grass well make sure thatis your priority. Often, trying to grow wholecrops or root crops on marginal ground can be expensive with no yield benefits

Set a budget to help keep pasture in A1 condition. Dairy herd profitability is directly linked to good forage quality


  • Lots of different forages get clamped together i.e. grass, clover, lucerne, wholecrop

  • Energy deficiency, often seen in grazing systems due to over reliance on grazing

  • Large diet changes due to poor forward planning on forage stocks

  • Purchased forage generally brought on cost per bale or clamp not quality or dry matter

  • Keep trying to grow crops which are not suited to soil or altitude

  • No reseeding policy or plan for crop rotation

Balancing protein supply
Balancing Protein Supply

Source: McDonald et al, 2002; Munford 2013

Balancing protein supply1
Balancing Protein Supply


Make sure you have taken the time to fully assess all protein sources available and contact a nutritionist to help get the best protein balance available for you

Work with your feed suppliers to try and find more protein sources which can help control ERDP content in the diets

Where possible try to keep forages which are very high in protein separate and ration them accordingly

Do not be afraid to look at alternative protein sources which might cost more, generally the cost will be recuperated from better animal performance


  • Majority of raw materials used tend to have elevated levels of ERDP

  • Inflexible purchased feed formulations which you have no control over

  • Organic farms tend to grow high protein forage, specially 2nd and 3rd cut redclover silages and lucerne

  • Protein market is very cost sensitive so farmers are generally looking for cheap protein sources

Balancing energy supply
Balancing Energy Supply

Source: Hi Peak Feeds

Balancing energy supply1
Balancing Energy Supply


Try to get a blend of cereals used on farm so you can get different fermentation rates in the rumen.

Be careful with starch load on the rumen keep starch levels in complete diets between 15% to 18%

Bulk molasses are available on farm or through feed manufactures. Greater demand would help to generate more competition and make it more cost effective

When looking at diets keep the basic principles of nutrition covered. Most winter diets lack simple sugars which can make a big difference to rumen function. Look at molasses and fodderbeet as possible options


  • Heavy reliance of the main cereals crops grown

  • Diets can have high starch load on the rumen which can cause health issues

  • Alternative energy sources can be limited and expensive to use

  • Typically winter diets are short in simple sugars which could limit microbial function with the rumen

Rumen in situ s tarch degradation
Rumen in situ starch degradation

1a, rapidly soluble fraction as measured by washing loss from bag (g/kg starch); b, potentially degradable fraction (g/kg starch); Kd, constant rate of potentially degradable fraction (h-1); ED, effective rumen degradability (g/kg Starch) measured at outflow rate (Kp) at 0.02, 0.05, 0.06, and 0.08 h-1.

2SEM: standard error of means.

3Values in the same column with different letters (a-f) differ at P<0.05. NS, not significant; ***P<0.001.

Synchrony between energy and protein
Synchrony Between Energy and Protein

  • Key Points for ration formulation

  • Try to spread energy and protein supplies

  • Do not just look at price, try to look at the wider nutritional benefits of each raw material

  • Watch starch and ERDP levels, speak to your nutritionists to look for the best options available

  • Do not over use or over estimate individual raw material, whether that is forages or straights

  • Measure and manage; make sure when you try different dietary changes you record the response. There are more financial benefits in dairy farming other than just yield.