Maximising Dairy Herd Productivity: A Comprehensive Guide to Buffer Feeding Strategies

Maximising Dairy Herd Productivity: A Comprehensive Guide to Buffer Feeding Strategies

In any dairy operation, animal feed stands out as both the most crucial and costly input. Farmers strive to achieve a favourable return on their investments by effectively managing feed costs without compromising the desired milk response. Buffer feeding stands as a cornerstone in the quest to elevate dairy herd productivity, particularly during the critical phases of peak lactation.

In this article, the experts from Specialist Nutrition delve into the multifaceted aims, pivotal considerations, and practical strategies associated with effective buffer feeding, offering dairy farmers valuable insights to enhance their herd's overall performance.

The Role of Buffer Feeding

Buffer feeding serves as a vital strategy to bridge the nutritional gap for dairy cows. This approach enables farmers to complement the available grass or silage resources, ensuring that the nutritional requirements of the cows are met consistently throughout the year while maintaining a balanced diet.

The flexibility of buffer feeding proves instrumental in addressing any shortfalls in overall dry matter intake (DMI) targets, fostering optimum rumen function. This, in turn, contributes to achieving desirable milk quality, maximising solids, and preserving body condition.

Benefits of Buffer Feeding

The benefits of buffer feeding revolve around keeping the DMI up in the cows along with maintaining BCS and those actions aid the following:

Minimising Body Condition Loss

One primary objective of buffer feeding is to safeguard dairy cows against undue body condition loss, ensuring they maintain an optimal weight during pivotal periods of their lactation cycle.

Improving Herd Health

A wise crafted buffer feeding strategy contributes significantly to overall herd health. By providing a well-balanced diet, it bolsters the immune system, reducing the risk of diseases and promoting resilience.

Enhancing Milk Solids, Especially Milk Fat

Buffer feeding plays a pivotal role in the quest for improved milk solids, with a specific focus on increasing the coveted milk fat content. This not only enhances the quality of the produced milk but also contributes to the economic viability of dairy operations.

Boosting Fertility Performance Through Nutrition

Nutritional aspects embedded within the buffer feeding regimen are strategically designed to positively influence fertility performance in dairy cows. This holistic approach addresses the symbiotic relationship between nutrition and reproductive health.

Utilising Spring Grass Efficiently While Budgeting

An efficient buffer feeding strategy ensures the optimal utilisation of spring grass while adhering to budgetary constraints. This delicate balance is key to achieving economic advantages without compromising on nutritional quality.

Maximising Dry Matter Intake (DMI) for Cows

Buffer feeding stands as a reliable method to ensure that cows achieve and maintain optimal dry matter intake at all times. This not only supports their nutritional needs but also contributes to their overall well-being and performance.

Additive Supplementation

Integrating strategic additive supplementation enhances the effectiveness of the buffer feeding strategy. This addition offers tailored nutritional support, addressing specific needs to further boost productivity.

Key Considerations for Cow Turnout & Supplementary Buffer Feeding

Navigating the complexities of cow turnout and supplementary buffer feeding requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. As dairy farmers prepare for this crucial phase, understanding key considerations becomes paramount. The following insights provide a comprehensive guide for farmers as they embark on this critical aspect of herd management.

Analysing Feedstuffs, Especially Grazed Grass

A foundational aspect of buffer feeding is a meticulous analysis of feedstuffs, especially grazed grass. Understanding key nutritional components such as Crude Protein (CP), Fibre (NDF), Metabolizable Energy (ME), Dry Matter (DM), Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC), and Oil content is imperative for designing a nuanced buffer feeding strategy.

Balancing the Diet

The delicate equilibrium between energy density and protein content in the diet is critical for efficient milk production. Striking this balance not only improves a cow's overall lactation performance but also offers cost benefits, providing significant economic advantages.

Measuring Dry Matter Intake

Accurate measurement of grass allowance and supplementation is pivotal for cows to meet their intake targets. This precision helps avoid undesirable outcomes such as excessive body condition loss or feed wastage.

Promoting Voluntary Intakes

The formulation of diets with palatable feedstuffs, including grazed grass, moist feeds, and liquid feeds, encourages cows to willingly consume additional dry matter. This proactive approach aids in overcoming negative energy balance (NEB) faster.

Eliminating Excessive Body Condition Loss

Mitigating body condition loss is crucial, especially during the initial 50 days post-calving. Striving to keep this loss below 0.5 BCS (Body Condition Score) ensures the cows remain in optimal health, ideally achieving a BCS of 3.0 at the first service.

Maximising Rumen Efficiency

Gradual acclimatisation of the rumen to spring grass over a three-week period allows the rumen microbes to adapt, preventing detrimental effects on body condition score (BCS) and fertility. Incorporating digestible sources of fibre, degradable starch, and rumen-enhancing feed additives helps to maintain a favourable protein balance in the rumen.

Consistency is Key

While dietary and management changes are inevitable during the transition to spring turnout, maintaining consistency remains paramount. Striving for gradual, stepwise changes ensures the herd adapts efficiently to new feedstuffs, optimising their utilisation and performance.


Using a well-thought-out buffer feeding plan is crucial for dairy farmers to get the most productivity from their herds. By addressing a spectrum of aims and considerations, encompassing body condition, overall herd health, milk solids, and fertility performance, farmers can craft a tailored buffer feeding plan. For personalised guidance in developing an effective buffer feeding strategy, consult with our Specialist Nutrition experts, dedicated to enhancing the unique needs of your dairy farm.

Specialist Nutrition is the leader in animal feed solutions and expert nutrition advice supplying a comprehensive range of high-quality moist and liquid feeds and supplements to progressive dairy and beef farmers.