Feeding Jersey Cows and Calves
Jersey cows are fed in a similar way to all other breeds of dairy cattle. However, there are some things to bear in mind when balancing a ration for Jersey cows. Some factors to consider:
Jerseys have been documented to eat a greater percentage of dry matter (DM) in relation to their body weight (4.5%) than larger breeds(4.0%)
Energy Levels - This is not as critical of a concern in a Jersey ration, given lower maintenance requirements, but should still be balanced accordingly.
Crude Fat Levels in a Jersey ration should often be at a lower level than Holstein ration, preferably 4.5% or less
Copper Levels - Keep copper at 20ppm in a Jersey ration, less than for Holsteins.
Do not overfeed any one feed source - a balance of sources is preferred, as in any breed.
Dry cow feeding regimen is perhaps more important with Jerseys than with other breeds to miminize risk of metabolic disorders.
Sharing one ration between two or more breeds is very possible. Work with your nutritionist to find the balance. It may often mean optimizing the ration for the Jerseys, and allowing for the larger breed to simply eat more, taking advantage of their size.
Range of Recommended Jersey Heifer Weights and Heights
Jersey Calf and Heifer Growth Chart
(Source: 2008 Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences)
Feeding Jersey Calves
- Newborns (first 3 days)
The first 12 hours is the most important. During this time, about 2 to 3L of colostrum must be fed in order for the calf to get all of the antibodies he/she will need to fight of disease. Colostrum is usually continued for the first 3 days. Some breeders have found that they must add water to very high solids Jersey milk to reduce sugar levels of the milk. A section on care of newborn calves follows this section. Of the utmost importance is to get colostrum into the calf as soon as possible after birth. Use of a calf blanket could be helpful in cold weather.
- 0-3 Months of Age
Whole milk is fed to the calf for this period at a rate of 3 L/day. A third feeding could be included on days which are -25 degrees or colder if the calves are raised in hutches. The use of calf blankets could negate the need for extra milk on these cold days. Calves should be taken off whole milk as soon as they are eating 1 to 1.5 kg of calf starter per day. It is also important to have high quality hay available at this age, preferably a fine second or third cut hay.
- 4-9 Months of Age
At this time, grass hay is beginning to be fed and calf starter is increased to 2 kgs per day. The large amount of hay being fed ensures that the rumen is working well and that the heifers have a deep, open rib. The grain provides the energy needed to keep them growing.
- 10-16 Months of Age
At this time, the heifers should be switched to a heifer ration. They should be fed 2 kgs of the ration along with grassy hay free choice until shortly before calving. During this period, you may find some of the heifers starting to get too heavy. If so, either reduce the amount of grain they are receiving or put them with a group which is older. If you don't, the fat heifers will not grow to their potential height and will begin to make fat deposits in their udder; therefore reducing future milk production and udder texture.
- 17-24 Months of Age
Maintenance is the key during this period. Hence a diet consisting of free choice hay or pasture along with enough energy in order to maintain reasonable body condition.
Feeding Dry Jersey Cows
A dry cow ration heavy in grass hay is preferred. No grain is fed to the dry cows until about 2 weeks prior to calving. The milking ration can be gradually introduced two weeks prior to calving. Be sure to maintain access to dry-cow oriented minerals and supplements.
Feeding Jersey Heifers
What is the difference between feeding Jersey heifers and heifers of larger breeds?
- Typically, Jerseys mature more quickly than other breeds and therefore can be at risk of becoming overweight if overfed. This is may be an issue when they are mixed together with other breeds because the larger breeds need more energy in order to meet their genetic potential. Often, the high energy ration fed to both breeds results in the Jerseys becoming overweight and slowing down growth and making fat deposits in their udder; therefore reducing future milk production.
- To avoid this problem, lots of hay should be fed along with moving the Jerseys into an older group as soon as they look like they have become too heavy. Competing with heifers 3 months older will help to reduce weight and should more closely match the feed the heifer requires at that age. Making sure that your heifers have lots of space to get exercise will also aid in keeping them at the proper body condition.
- A common mistake is to group the heifers by size rather than age when growing Jerseys and larger breeds in the same pen. This increases the problem of letting the Jerseys get too much energy. In the situation where size is comparable, the much younger heifers of larger breeds could still be on calf starter while the Jersey should already be on a heifer ration and lots of hay. The result is accelerated weight gain, which will cause all of the problems described earlier. Either way, too high of energy intake is a major problem and needs to be monitored by simply taking time to look at the body condition of the heifers in each pen and act accordingly.
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