AdminRootController: default_panel: 'CMSPagesController' Early lactation | The Dairy Nutrition Specialists

6 stages overview

Days 31 – 130 (Peak milk production)
Early lactation

Pre-Calving 1 Post-Calving 2 Early Lactation 3 Mid Lactation 4 Late Lactation 5 Dry Cow 6

The period of peak milk production – your cows will need plenty of dry matter. This is the time nutrition can help improve reproductive performance and fertility.

The cow requirement during this period is ensuring that she has plenty of dry matter (DM) available and getting her back into a positive energy balance quickly. This is the time where nutrition can help improve reproductive performance and fertility.

Providing optimum dry matter intake (DMI) is a key objective in the effort to minimise body condition score (BCS) losses and maximise milk solids production. A useful target for BCS loss over this period is < 0.5 of a BCS. A tough target, however one which will be rewarded in more milk, better reproductive performance and reduced feed costs later in the season when BCS has to be restored.

As soil temperatures increase over this spell, pasture quantity and quality rapidly improve. Ensuring that the overall neutral detergent fibre (NDF) of the ration is a minimum of 32% is important and to achieve this it may require continued supplementation with hay or straw, particularly when higher levels of starch are being fed to increase productivity.


Peak milk equals peak cow nutrient requirements. While spring pasture is typically very high in crude protein (CP), large portions are highly soluble and may not be utilised for microbial (bug) protein yield. It is generally accepted that cows consuming above 16kg DM of spring pasture that peak at less than 2.5kg MS daily will have the metabolisable protein (MP) requirements met by pasture. However, higher production herds or herds with high levels of supplement feeding will benefit from additional supply of rumen undegraded protein (RUP). Cows peaking at ≥2.5kg MS daily will have a MP requirement of around 2,150 grams per day. Cows peaking >3.0kg MS daily will have a MP requirement above 2,750 grams per day.

High production herds may further benefit from the provision of specific protected amino acids (methionine, lysine), if cows are showing signs of excess soluble protein like ammonia smell in urine or high milk urea nitrogen (MUN).

Hand in hand with peak milk production is the requirement for carbohydrates (CHO). Pasture at this time can exceed 15% sugars which can lead to sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA). This typically results in reduced DMI and at this stage of lactation a cow will utilise body reserves to continue maximum milk production, which will lead to a rapid decline in body condition. While providing sugar as a source of carbohydrate, pasture lacks starch. Providing starch as a component in the cow’s ration will increase total fermentable carbohydrates, which leads to increased blood glucose and insulin - the precursors to lactose (more milk) and increased milk protein percentage.

During this period, don’t forget the vitamin and mineral requirement. The requirement for calcium remains high as does magnesium. Pasture can be low in magnesium at this time or high in potassium, resulting in interference of magnesium uptake. This increases the risk of grass tetany. Also keep an eye on trace minerals and vitamins for immune function, hooves and reproductive performance.

Delivering the best nutrient mix

Providing generous rations of TopCow® Maxum will meet the cow’s requirements for RDS, RES, calcium, magnesium and increase the total DMI and nutrient density of the ration. Ensuring DMI is optimised and providing a good source of carbohydrates are essential components in maximising peak milk production while minimising BCS losses.

Usage rates

TopCow® Complete contains Rumensin® and minerals all designed to be fed at a 2 – 4kg/cow/day.

TopCow® Maxum, TopCow® Dairy and TopCow® Seasonal usage rates will vary according to forage availability, breed of cow, stage of lactation and milk solids production.

Please contact your Ingham Dairy Nutrition Specialist to discuss your herd’s specific nutrient requirements.