Getting your dairy herd milking is key for all dairy farmers to maximise the potential of a herd and to keep profits up. The best way to achieve herd milking potential is by looking at your herd in groups. Trying to manage your milking herd and heifer replacements in the same way will cause potential problems down the road. We have created a three-stage approach to reaching 50 litres a day. If you focus on these areas, you will be sure closer to reaching your business goals.

Focus 1: Replacement Heifers

A cow is considered to grow until an age of 60 months. A heifer reaches puberty at 45% of her adult (60 months) size. She should be bred when she reaches approximately 65% of her mature size.

The traditional mating weight was 320kg i.e., 65% of a 500kg cow. Cows now on average weigh 600kg and many are 650-700kg, therefore using the original formula we should be mating heifers at 400kg.

Heifers need to enter the lactation at 85-90% of adult size to avoid growth in the first lactation at the expense of milk production.

A heifer that calves 1 inch taller in length, width and girth will have 25 gallons more body capacity. As the rumen is 20-25% of total volume, she will have 5 gallons more rumen capacity. This can easily translate into 3kg to 5kg of milk in increased dry matter intake capacity. A heifer reaching this “physiological benchmark” will partition less nutrient towards growth and more towards milk production.

We see it on farm when too often a genetically superior heifer is culled due to the heifer feeder not allowing her to express her true growth potential.

Focus 2: Dry Cow Management

Far off Dry Cows:

Drying off involves reducing milk production to a manageable level through a manipulation of rumen synthesis. 56 days should be considered the minimum dry period. The key to successful drying off high producing cows involves the abrupt alteration of rumen synthesis. Feed poor forage or straw until manure stiffens. This indicates the correct level of rumen function for drying off the cow. Prolonged withholding of water is not advisable. Appropriate levels of protein should be fed. 

Close Up Dry Cows:

Transition ration (last 21 days pre-calving) is mandatory. Three weeks before calving the cows dry matter intake drops by 20%. Cows can eat no more the day after calving than the day before.

Focus 3: Cow Comfort

Cow comfort is responsible for approximately 25% of total yield.

Two herds with identical nutrition will vary in production because of differences in cow comfort. Blood flow to the udder increases by more than 30% when the cow is lying down. Cubicle matting is very important. Rubber mats are often used, but the condition of these needs to be frequently assessed as the material can shift over time. You should not be seeing rub spots on the necks or polls of cows from impact with feed rails. A cow will stop at a 21-inch wall and the feed rail can be placed at a higher level. Cubicle design and management will have an impact on the cow 24 hours a day – so get it right.

Water Quality & Availability:

Milk is 80% water. The rumen contents are 80% water…so water limits intake. Access to water on exit from the parlour is a must. Provide two linear feet of water trough per 25 cows in two locations so that social competition is eliminated.


Check the quality of the air at the height of the cow’s muzzle. This will give you a good indication of the quality of air. Minimum 10- 15 air changes per hour in winter. Minimum of 40 air changes in summer.


Protein levels in the diet pre-calving affect cleansing efficiency. Protein starved placentas are bright red in colour and can often be seen hanging from under the tail. This is due to an increase in attachment strength. Twin calvers often do not clean efficiently as they have received insufficient protein. Cows who receive adequate protein should discharge their placenta with fewer problems. Advances beyond 10,000kg do not often occur in the lactational barn. Instead, the next 2,000kg come from the two ends of the cow shed: dry cow and heifer management.

or more information, speak to your Feed Specialist or call the office 01409 254 300.

However, we have seen rain forecast which has eased the market in the past couple days.

Barley has become extremely short and incredibly difficult to source.

With the current market we are seeing a different raw material travel. Rape Seed from Ukraine going to Canada. French Wheat heading over to China.

With the current maize price we are likely to see a switch from soya to maize in the US.

We are in a real weather market at the moment and we are likely to see this volatility for the rest of the summer.