How Much Forage Does a Dairy Cow Consume Each Day?

Consultants and researchers in Ireland have calculated grass intake guidelines for dairy cows on a daily basis, outlining considerations for introduction to grass.
calendar icon 4 March 2015
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Getting cows settled onto rising grass intakes over the next few weeks is important to drive higher milk solids yield and improve fertility, write experts at the Agriculture and Food Development Authority (TEAGASC).

As a general guide, a mature cow will consume 10kg dry matter (DM) grass in the first week after calving. This should rise by 1kg per week for eight weeks into lactation, when daily feed intake reaches a plateau (Figure 1).

First calving heifers will eat 1.5-2kg less grass DM than mature cows, reducing average daily grass demand by around 0.5kg per cow during spring.

DM Intake of Mature Cow


For herds that reach peak production of around 2.0kg milk solids per day (27kg milk), the daily deficit in energy before maximum grass intake is achieved equates to 3-4kg high energy concentrate per day where high quality grass is available.

This can be reduced by around 1kg per day if milking once a day. With grass in the diet, at least by day, a concentrate crude protein content of 14% is sufficient.

A standard guideline for mid to late March is therefore 14kg grass plus 3kg high-energy concentrate per day.

Depending on average farm grass cover, concentrate feeding can be further reduced at the start of the second grazing round as forage intake potential has increased.

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