Grouping cows is key to achieving good feed efficiency

Written by Brian McDonnell from Agriland

Having good feed efficiency is key to achieving profitable milk production during the winter period from autumn-calving cows.

Winter milk production usually involves more concentrates being fed to cows. Concentrates are expensive so it is important that they are maximised to achieve their full potential.

Feed efficiency​

To achieve good feed efficiency you need to group your cows over the housing period – this is according to Richard Gibson, an advisor with College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

Depending on the design of the shed, ideally, you should be able to spilt the herd into two groups.

Richard suggests splitting your cows into two groups:

  • Group 1 – highest yielding/early lactation group (cows giving more than 28kg milk or less than 150 days in-milk);
  • Group 2 – lower yielding/late lactation group (cows giving less than 28kg milk or more than 150 days in-milk).


Richard recommends setting the amount of concentrates fed/cow in the diet feeder to suit the lowest yielding cow in the group.

Good quality silage (74+ DMD [dry matter digestibility]) and up to 7kg of concentrates daily, allows cows with yields of 28kg of milk to be managed satisfactorily.

To determine the quality of your silage you need to complete a silage quality test.

These concentrates can be spilt between the diet feeder and parlour, with higher yielding cows offered extra concentrates in line with how much milk they are producing.

Richard suggested that you move cows between the groups as their yield declines.

Cows more than 150 days in-milk no longer producing 28kg of milk should be moved to the lower yielding group.

At this stage, they may receive a greater proportion of their concentrate in the parlour than before.

But it is important that cows in late lactation are not overfed in order to maximise efficiency this winter.

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