Swiss College of Agriculture, Zollikofen

Investigation on feed intake of pregnant heifers and first lactating cows in Switzerland

In dairy herds, about one third of the cows are primiparous. These animals are still growing and therefore have specific nutrition requirements. The aim of this project was to show how heifers and primiparous cows are fed on Swiss dairy farms. Feeding, production and health data were collected on 60 Swiss farms for 252 animals. The dry matter intake of heifers was similar to the values derived from the “Swiss standard values of nutrition”. In contrast, the intake of the primiparous cows exceeded the estimation by 2 kg during the first two months of lactation. The type of feed ration had only little influence on intake. The increase of feeding intensity, less than 2 months before calving, had no negative influence on feed intake during the first two months of lactation. Milk production was also increased. The results of this inquiry leads to the conclusion that the formulas for estimating feed intake of heifers and primiparous cows, as given in the “Swiss standard values of nutrition“, correspond very well to the on-farm observations, except for the beginning of the lactation period.

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