AFBI evaluates 'precision feeding' strategies for dairy cows

Date published: 14 June 2017

Area of Expertise:

Researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have initiated a major new project to develop new precision concentrate allocation strategies for dairy cows. This three year project is co-funded by DAERA and AgriSearch, and is seeking to reduce production costs by better aligning concentrate feed levels with each individual cow’s changing nutrient requirements in early lactation.

Conrad Ferris (AFBI), pictured right and Jason Rankin (AgriSearch) discuss the new individual cow feed intake and feeding behaviour monitoring equipment that will be used in the precision feeding studies at AFBI, Hillsborough

Studies will examine the impact of allocating concentrates to cows based on their individual live weight, milk yield, milk composition and actual feed intake during the early lactation period.  In addition, the project will examine if it is possible to predict the forage intake of individual cows in a herd based on individual performance data and stage of lactation.  If this is achieved it will make it possible for farmers to more precisely allocate concentrates to meet the needs of individual cows within feed-to-yield type systems.

The project will also examine the potential of Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy (MIR) to provide information about the health status of dairy cows.  While MIR is the technology used by milk processors to determine the fat and protein concentration of milk, MIR can also be used to predict a number of other cow characteristics, including individual cow energy balance.  Furthermore, AFBI’s membership of the UK’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) will enable this project to use advanced monitoring technologies to monitor dairy cow behaviour and changes in body condition score, and to identify if information obtained from these can be incorporated into improved feed management practices.

Advances in technology are changing the way everyone lives, works and communicates and these same technologies are creating new opportunities for dairy farmers.  AFBI aims to be at the forefront of these technological advances in order to help local farmers to be among the first to gain the benefits.

by Dr Conrad Ferris, AFBI Hillsborough

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

AFBI's Vision is “Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland …  serving the world”.

All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office

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