Due to their smaller size and other characteristics, they do not consume feed and forage the same as other dairy breeds. They eat more forage as a percentage of their bodyweight and are remarkably more efficient at converting it into milk solids.
ForFarmers Business Manager and Jersey nutrition expert Peter Cade explains the nutritional needs of the breed and how farmers can get the best from their herds.
“It is essential that farmers and nutritionists respect the fact that these animals are not the same as their black and white counterparts and have unique needs,” Peter says. “Today’s Jersey is also physically different from her predecessors, weighing 475-500kg on average, compared to the average liveweight of 425-450kg from 20 years ago, meaning intakes are higher too.
“When it comes to feeding these cows, the most important thing to remember is that they have relatively big appetites and high energy needs.
Good nutrition is key in order to achieve the high fertility and milk solids that they are famous for, so it is essential that they are fed a properly-balanced diet 365 days a year regardless of stage of lactation,” he stresses.
There are a few specific points of difference regarding Jersey nutrition to keep in mind when formulating diets that can take cow performance to the next level.
To support farmers looking to optimise nutrition for their Jersey herds, ForFarmers offer a wide range of products and specialist staff to help meet the nutritional needs of the breed.
“We gained a lot of knowledge about Jersey nutrition by sponsoring ‘Project Charlotte’ alongside the Jersey Milk Marketing Board and several UK farmers several years ago,” Peter says. “It was a really important project in helping the industry understand how unique these cows are and taught us so much about their eating habits and how they convert energy.”
Many of ForFarmers products and ingredients are offered in alternative formats best suited to Jerseys, including their ‘Match’ line of cakes, which help to buffer feeds, preventing acid building and ensuring correct rumen pH.
This winter, the company also launched Optifeed, a ruminant rationing programme that provides feed advice for heifers, second calvers and older cows across all stages of lactation. Also calibrated for Jerseys and their requirements, it tests the farm’s silage using NIR as a starting point, and then builds customised diet formulas to maximise feed efficiency and optimise performance.