Winter crop feed study



The winter crop feed study is one of a number of research trials that will take place at the Southern Dairy Hub (SDH).

This study is testing different winter feeding options and their carry over effects into lactation.

There is a growing concern about animal health and welfare issues when cows consume high quantities of fodder beet (FB), as the high-energy feed is deficient in some essential minerals (e.g. phosphorus) and low in protein.


Treatments were chosen to demonstrate differences between two feeding strategies; ad-lib feed allocation (high) and body condition score (BCS) targeted feed allocation (target).

These strategies were implemented with both kale and fodder beet.

High allocation cows were offered 3 kg DM/cow/day baleage and ad-lib crop to achieve 1.25 BCS gain.

The target allocation cows were offered 4.5 kg DM/cow/day baleage and crop to achieve a 0.7 BCS gain.

Accounting for differences in feed quality and utilisation, cows were expected to be consuming 160 MJME/cow/day (high) or 140 MJME/cow/day (target).

This resulted in four herds of 80 cows each; high kale, target kale, high FB and target FB. Transitioning to crop commenced on the 31/5/17.

Following the winter period, cows from each treatment will be evenly dispersed between the four herds that will be running during the season at SDH. All herds will be managed under the same control decision rules until autumn 2018.


Feed allocation

(kg DM/cow/day)

(kg DM/cow/day)

Crop type


14 kg kale

3 kg baleage

10.4 kg kale

4.5 kg baleage

Fodder beet

11.9 kg FB

3 kg baleage

9.1 kg FB

4.5 kg baleage


During winter

  • Crop yield assessment; fortnightly throughout the feeding period
  • Crop refusal assessment; two occasions during the winter feeding period
  • Fortnightly crop and baleage quality
  • Fortnightly BCS
  • Blood samples for metabolic/mineral profile during transitioning onto the crop and through the winter
  • Behaviour (lying time, standing time)

During lactation

  • Colostrum quality
  • Blood samples for metabolic profile during early lactation
  • Daily milk volume and liveweight
  • Fortnightly herd test (milk composition)
  • Fortnightly BCS
  • Reproductive parameters; submission rate, conception rate, in-calf rate.
  • All animal health incidences during winter, calving and early lactation documented