Cutting cost one mouthful at a time

Reducing the amount of food fed to heifers may help farmers cut costs

Recently I have become rather familiar with a dairy feeding regime called limit-feeding.  Personally I had never heard of this dairy diet before, but since have learned a lot.   The basis of limit feeding is to feed a nutrient dense diet to dairy heifers while reducing roughage by 20-30%.  The animals still receive all essential vitamins and minerals but their roughage source (plant fibrous material i.e. hay) is restricted in order to help farmers cut costs on the farm.  Feeding dairy heifers is often thought of as throwing money down the toilet because they have no immediate profit returns to the farm.  Eventually they will begin to produce milk, but for 2 years farmers are feeding these animals and not getting any returns.  Limit feeding has gotten a bad reputation with the public as essentially you are restricting an animals food.  Heifers will often exhibit negative behaviours such as licking objects, tongue rolling and increased vocalization.  Although the practice of limit feeding has yet to be perfected, I believe that this technique can be very valuable to farmers who are looking to cut feeding costs on their farms.  Research at the University of Guelph is being done to try and improve this dairy diet to accommodate heifers better and reduce the negative behaviours and attitude towards limit feeding.

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