Putting Weight on a Jersey

purplequeenvt

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I have a 3 year old Jersey cow in milk (calved in March) that needs more condition. She was grassfed only during the summer and was doing well, but has dropped some weight this fall when the weather turned cold. She's currently getting 9lbs a day of a 16% dairy feed and I just added about 2lbs per day of beet pulp.

What can I give her to help her put on weight without upping her production? We do not have access to alfalfa hay around here, but pellets are an option. She's almost 2 months pregnant.

I do have access to a 20% protein feed as well.
 

mysunwolf

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Take down the protein in her feed. We had a neighbor who had a skin-and-bones Jersey cow who wouldn't put on any meat, just kept producing many many gallons a day, her udder almost on the ground. The vet said that feeding high protein to a high production older cow, especially a Jersey, would just make her put the protein into producing even more milk. Instead, feed a 10-12% protein feed with an extremely high energy content. I would recommend alfalfa hay, but if you can't get that consider another type of high-quality hay. And good luck.

Edited to clarify: lower protein grain as the main feed, the freshest mix with the highest energy you can get, in addition to feeding a high quality hay (or pellet or cube) free choice
 
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M.L. McKnight

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I don't want to disagree with mysunwolf but when I need to get some weight on my cattle I have luck with cottonseed meal. I am not a fan of the meal and salt, instead I take straight meal and mix it into their feed at around a 5% ratio. This keeps the protein level in the cottonseed meal from making the feed too hot and as a bonus the cattle really seem to like it.
I have mixed alfalfa hay in with their feed before as an extender and to slow down their rate of consumption. I found that they respond well to the pellets but they don't like those cubes. It might seem dumb to give cubes to cattle but I figured why not try? It wasn't a total loss, the horses and my mule LOVED them.

Check with your county agent and see if you can grow sainfoin in your area, it'll give you similar nutrition to what you'll find in alfalfa and you won't have to worry about bloat.
 

WildRoseBeef

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She is getting too much protein. You need to back off on the protein supplements and start her on some high-energy supplements that's lower protein and high carbohydrate to start putting some fat on her ribs. You will also need to increase fibre content of the feed to make sure her production isn't going to increase on you too much. You can't get a cow fat on protein. Carbohydrates will do that for you.

Take out the 20% protein feed. Keep her on the 16% dairy feed, reduce the ration to ~5 or 6 lb a day, increase the beet pulp ration (if it's not too expensive to do so), and put her on free-choice grass-legume hay, if she's not on it already (which I'm sure she is). Beet pulp is still good to have because of it's high TDN (energy; Total Digestible Nutrients) content and low protein. If beet pulp is too expensive, go with rolled oats or cracked corn, or whatever feed grain you have available in your area.

McKnight's suggestion is good, but looking at the nutritional component it's probably not what you're looking for. It's high in protein, as the CP (crude protein) is around 40 to 45%, too high for your Jersey. TDN for cottonseed meal is only around 20 to 30% regardless the oil content, which is not enough for putting weight on. Too much protein and too little energy, something that isn't needed for this gal of yours.

The protein requirements for a lactating dairy cow in her first few months of lactation is only around 16 to 18 percent. By mid-lactation, which she's getting close to, she only needs around 14 to 16% crude protein. Maintenance energy requirements is around 40%. If she's going to gain weight, she'll need at least that, but no more than 45% energy. This is because you don't want her to get sick with acidosis or bloat from eating too much grain.

For more information, check out these links:

http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=SA0501051.pdf
http://mysrf.org/pdf/pdf_dairy/cow_handbook/dc16.pdf
http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/feeding_milking_cow.pdf

Hope that helps you a little.
 

purplequeenvt

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Thanks for all the help!

She is not on the 20% pellet. I've lowered her 16% pellets to 6lbs and upped her beet pulp (forgot to weigh it this morning). I'm going to add in some cracked corn. Would Alfalfa pellets be a good addition or is there already enough going on?

She is not on any hay yet because she is still on pasture.
 

WildRoseBeef

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You probably have enough going on as it is. You could feed a little bit of it as a treat once every few days, but not as a daily thing. I think once she's on this, let us know how things go and how she does on this new ration. :)
 

greybeard

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When we talk about a feed program, we always speak of a "balanced" approach, but that balance changes depending on the animal's age, maturity, whether the goal is muscle, fat, milk or energy. They all have to be equally addressed as well as minerals and salt.

I would be very concerned about a couple of things with the original feeding regimen.
Ketosis/fatty liver for one. Here's a bit about Ketosis and what causes it:
http://www.farme.com/assets/articles/ketoneweb.htm

As others have said, your protein level is too high. In ruminants, protein builds muscle, while fiber builds fat and provides energy. You are out of balance. Inasmuch as winter is upon you in Vermont, I would assume your pasture is pretty much done for this year, so you have to provide supplemental fiber in the form of hay. A note about alfalfa:
http://www.hobbyfarms.com/crops-and-gardening/hay-feeding-14792.aspx
Alfalfa may have twice the protein and three times the level of calcium than grass hay. Thus alfalfa is often fed to animals that need more protein and minerals. Since you are already feeding high protein feed, you need a good source of energy and fat.
Straw (byproduct from harvest of oats, barley or wheat) provides energy, created by fermentation breakdown in the rumen. A small amount of alfalfa, or a commercial protein supplement, can provide the needed protein, minerals and vitamins. Always select good quality, clean straw when buying it for feed. Oat straw is the most palatable; cattle like it quite well. Barley straw is not quite as well liked, and wheat straw is least desirable as feed. If feeding cereal grain hay (cut while still green and growing, rather than at maturity, as straw), have it checked for nitrate levels to avoid nitrate poisoning. (Contact your local extension agent about testing.)

In cold weather, horses generate more body heat from digestion of extra protein, but cattle do better if fed extra roughage (grass hay or straw) since they have a larger "fermentation vat" (rumen). So during cold weather, you will want to feed your cattle more roughage, rather than more legume hay.


Since cottnseed meal was mentioned....Cottonseed meal (cake/cubes) is an excellent feed and all my (beef) cattle love it, but it has to be regulated in some fashion, and the animal has to have a matching source of good fiber to go along with it to prevent all the protein being used for more milk production instead of adding to body condition. If the protein content in the diet is too high, the animal starts using body fat for energy, thus loses condition while still producing plenty of milk.

The 1st thing I would do is rule out internal parasites. Call around and find a large animal veterinary that does a fecal count. It's fairly inexpensive-$20/sample here. You'll need to give the vet an estimate of the cow's weight, her age, and general health condition. Then get a recommendation from the vet on how to proceed. To provide the sample, simply get a new 1 qt ziplock bag, watch the cow a little while and when she poops, take a garden trowel and scoop up about 1/4 bag of fresh poop--without contaminating it with the underlying soil. Seal it up, drop it off (same day if possible) and the vet will do their thing.

I do feed a lot of the range meal Mr. McNight mentioned--my cattle like it and the 2:1 salt to meal ration works well--the salt serving as a limiter, but I wouldn't know about it's use in a dairy animal, tho I have had good luck with it in lactating beef cattle in winter.
 

purplequeenvt

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Getting a fecal is a good idea. I was just thinking that I should probably deworm her soon. I'm planning on having the vet out to preg check her and the heifer this week anyway.

She's currently getting 6lbs of 16% dairy pellets, 9lbs beet pulp, and 6lbs cracked corn a day. She is just off pasture and has access to free choice hay. She looks like she's starting to put on some weight, but I want to see more. I'll definitely deworm her. The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that that could be a contributing factor.
 

WildRoseBeef

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Putting on weight will take time. Give it a month or two and then you'll really start seeing results.
 

purplequeenvt

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Vet was out yesterday to preg check her. She's pregnant!

I asked about her condition and he said that well she's not fat, she's in pretty decent shape for a lactating cow.
 

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