Dry cow nutrition. The key to improving fresh cow performance.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Evidence supports the concept of the dry period being a critical component to lactation preparation rather than an insignificant rest period between lactations. Required nutrient amounts for the dry cow are the sum of maintenance, pregnancy, and reserve replenishment needs with additional requirements for growth during the first two pregnancies. Maintenance energy requirements can be dramatically increased by level of activity and adverse environmental conditions. A wide variety of feed ingredients can be successfully fed to dry cows as long as rations are appropriately formulated to meet energy, protein, mineral, and vitamin requirements. A early and close-up dry program best matches increasing pregnancy requirements and declining intake capacity with management capabilities. The early dry cow ration is formulated for high fiber/low energy density while the close-up ration contains higher energy density with less fiber. Both rations contain sufficient other nutrients based on determined intake. This two-group system provides maximal flexibility in managing for optimum body condition at calving. Environmental stresses and dramatic dietary changes should be minimized during the transition period from late gestation to lactation. A sound dry cow program results from integration of quality nutrition and cow management practices as described. A dry cow program that enacts these guidelines should result in reduced incidence of clinical mastitis, successfully complete pregnancy with a viable calf, maximize genetic potential for milk production, minimize incidence of health disorders, and allows cows to breed back within an economically optimum time interval. Overall, a sound dry cow program is a critical key to improved fresh cow performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-620
Number of pages22
JournalThe Veterinary clinics of North America. Food animal practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Animals


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