It has been postulated that India’s present milk output could be doubled if dairy animals were only adequately fed. Some of the ways and means of achieving this objective are discussed. At the outset, it is useful to consider the normal milk production pattern of well-fed and well-managed animals.

The starting yield can be a best indicator of the average yield per day over the first month of lactation. For example, the average daily yield for the herd over the first vital month is 10 litres of milk per day or less, then it can be confidently expected that the maximum average output will not exceed 2,000 litres of milk per cow. Likewise it can be said that a yield of 3,000 litres of milk will not be possible unless the starting milk yield exceeds 15 litres a day.

These production ceilings will not be reached unless the animal remains in good health for the remaining eight months of lactation, is fed adequately over this period, and is milked and handled competently in the shed. If average yield per cow/buffalo is to be raised, then the first assault must be directed at improving the performance of the cows at the beginning of their lactations:

  • The animal must be in adequate physical condition at the time of calving;
  • The shed routine for milk removal from the animal must be efficient;
  • The ration after calving must contain adequate amounts of energy and protein.

Hay: Good hay should be leafy, green in colour, free from mould and foreign materials. It should preferably be from legume crops. It must be cut at an early stage of maturity. Hay from a late crop is less palatable and lower in total digestible nutrient, protein, calcium and phosphorus.

Cereal hays can be made from oats, barley, bajra, etc. These hays when cut early in the flowering stage and sufficiently before the milky stage retain much of their green colour and have reasonably good feeding value. However, they are less palatable and nutritious than legume hays. Cereal hays are low in protein and so they must be fed with a protein supplement.

Legume hays contain higher protein and calcium than cereal hay. They are also more palatable. The most important point to remember in preparing legume hay is to preserve leaves which contain over 75 per cent protein of the whole plant. Good quality hay is made mostly from lucerne and berseem crop, if they are cut at the proper stage and cured without loss of leaves.

Silage: Highly palatable and rich in carotene, silage is an efficient feed, because there is little waste when it is fed to animals. Even silage made from plants with coarse stalks, such as maize and sorghum, will be eaten with practically no waste. Also, the crop can be ensiled in weather that does not permit curing into dry forage (hay). If storage is a problem, silage offers the additional advantage of being highly compact. The feeding value of any silage depends on its moisture content and efficiency of making it.

The feeding system for dairy cattle has three important components. They are:

  1. Roughages/Dry Fodder
  2. Forages/Green Fodder
  3. Concentrates/Oil cakes, etc.

The nutritive values of these various types of feed materials are given in Table 1. Normally the evaluation of feed material is done on Metabolizable Energy (ME) basis or Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) basis. The conversion factors are given in Table 2.

Roughages: They are low in energy and protein and form the bulk of the feed. Roughages are rich in crude fiber constituting cellulose and hemicelluloses. The crude fiber is degraded in the rumen by microbes to volatile fatty acids like acetic, propionic and butyric. These acids are the source of energy and precursors of milk fat. Roughages are must in the feed. Roughages are obtained from maize or jowar, kadbi, wheat or rice straw, sugar cane tops, dry hay etc. Roughages have low palatability but animals still relish them.

Forages: They are green forages. They contain about 80% moisture and hence are juicy in nature. They add value to the feeding system. Forages have better digestibility than roughages. They also form the bulk of the feed and are rich in energy and protein. Usual source of forages are green lucerne, berseem and green grass. The forages are used for silage making.

Concentrates: Concentrates are rich in protein and are essential to meet the protein deficit. They are also rich in energy. Concentrates are palatable. They are essential part of the feeding system. Concentrates are made up of cereals, cereal byproducts, cakes and extraction. The list of ingredients that form the part of the concentrates is given in Table 3.

Table 1. Nutrient composition of common dairy feed and fodder (on dry matter basis).

Feed Ingredients










(K cal/Kg)

Paddy straw 4.7 2.0 30.2 12.0 1400
Wheat straw 3.2 1.4 37.0 8.9 1500
Jowar kadbi 4.7 1.0 35.0 4.3 1500
Sugarcane bagasse 1.1 0.5 52.5 15.0 1200
Sugarcane tops 8.7 2.7 45.2 3.4 1300
Hay 1.5 2.4 34.5 8.0 1500
Gram husk 2.7 0.7 49.8 0.5 1300
Lucerne 19.8 2.9 22.9 0.8 2000
Napier grass 13.4 3.4 23.1 5.1 1800
Guinea grass 9.9 1.9 34.0 5.9 1600
Jowar 4.8 1.0 34.3 3.2 1500
Coconut cake 20.4 12.1 7.0 1.0 2800
Cottonseed cake 25.0 10.0 27.0 4.0 2500
Groundnut cake 45.0 7.0 8.0 2.0 2900
Mustard cake 32.0 8.0 8.0 2.0 2700
Niger seed cake 32.0 7.0 18.0 3.0 2700
Rapeseed cake 35.0 9.0 9.0 2.0 2800
Sesame cake 35.0 7.0 8.0 1.5 2800
Linseed cake 32.5 10.0 6.4 1.5 2800
Sunflower cake 28.0 10.0 20.0 2.0 2800
Dec.Safflower cake 46.0 7.0 9.0 1.5 2900
Tur chuni 13.0 2.2 16.2 0.05 2200
Moong chuni                      19.6           2.0          17.4            1.1           2300
Guar chuni 15.1 4.0 21.5 2.2 2300
Urad chuni 16.4 11.2 20.4 2.4 2200
Maize gluten 40.0 3.8 3.0 1.5 2900
Wheat bran 14.0 3.3 7.6 2.0 2200
Tapioca spent pulp 2.0 0.2 14.0 3.0 2600
Rice bran                            11.0           12.0          10.0            5.0           2900
Rice bran extraction 14.0 0.9 13.0 8.0 1900
Salseed extraction 9.5 2.0 2.0 0.5 2600
Molasses 6.0 1.0 2500
Barley 10.2 2.7 3.4 0.9 2850
Gram 19.8 3.8 7.6 0.4 2900
Jowar 13.5 4.5 0.8 0.8 2900
AIA: Acid Insoluble Ash; ME: Metabolisable Energy.
Source: Clfma of India (2004) and Dr S.V. Vaidya (2002-03), unpublished data sheet.

Table 2. Conversion factors for fodder to concentrates.

10 kg Lucerne/ Berseem/ Cow pea


1.5 kg concentrate

10 kg Napier/ Guinea/ Sugar/ Green jowar


1.0 kg concentrate

5 kg Dry jowar/ Bajra / Maize fodder


2.0 kg concentrate



ME X 0.0277


Table 3. Ingredients used in cattle feed concentrates.

Energy Source: Maize, Jowar, Wheat, Damaged grains, Wheat bran, Rice Polish, Tapioca, By-pass fat
Protein Source: Cottonseed cake, Rapeseed Meal, Sunflower Meal, Peanut Meal, Maize Gluten, Coconut Meal, Soybean Meal, By-pass Amino Acids
Low Energy Source: Liquid Molasses, Rice Bran Extraction, Safflower Extraction
Unconventional Ingredients: Breweries Grains, Malt Sprouts, Bread/Biscuit Waste, Tomato Waste, Babul Chuni, Tamarind Seed Powder, Mango Seed Kernel, Turmeric Powder, Cassiatora Seeds, Mahuwa Seed Cake, Salseed Meal, Rubber Seed Cake, Ambadi Cake


Thus the roughages, green forages and concentrates form the complete feeding system. They are supplemented with minerals and trace elements and vitamins A and D3. In addition to the above, there are various supplements which when added to this ration, improve feed quality, food digestion, body metabolism, apart from increase in milk yield and improving body condition.

 New feed ingredients: It is estimated that feed requirement of ruminants at moderate levels of production can be met without using much of cereals and other human food ingredients. Important non-conventional feed ingredients include seeds of mango, tamarind, babul; seed cakes like castor, mahua, sal and niger; agro-industrial by-products like apple waste, bagasse; and, agricultural wastes like sunflower heads and straw.

Two major limitations in the large-scale utilization of these ingredients are: collecting them economically and presence of some anti-nutritional factors in some of them. These limitations may be overcome through reduction in size (by cutting, grinding, etc.), heat treatment, softening, treatment with alkalies, acids, salts, use of enzymes for digestion or bio-degradation, using suitable microbial cultures, etc.

Use of probiotics: Directly fed micro-organisms (DFM), popularly called as probiotics, contain live cells of yeasts and bacteria. In trials, yeasts have shown significant improvement in animal performance. These cultures help in ruminal digestion by supplying essential amino acids and vitamins to microflora and also creating optimal conditions of pH in rumen. So far, limited success has been achieved.



It is essential to understand the feed requirement of the dairy animal. Feed is required for maintenance, growth, production of milk and reproduction (growth of foetus). The requirement is measured in the terms of:

  • Total Digestive Nutrients (TDN)
  • Digestive Crude Proteins (DCP)
  • Rumen Degradable Protein (RDP)
  • Undegradable Protein (UDP)
  • Metabolizable Energy (ME/Kcal/Kg)
  • Calcium (Ca)
  • Phosphorus (P)

These requirements vary as per the body weight, status of milk yield and the age of the animal.

Tables 4–7 indicate the nutrient requirements of cattle and buffaloes.


Table 4. Nutrient requirements for maintenance of cattle and buffaloes.

Live weight (kg)

DM (kg) DCP (g) TDN (kg) Ca (g)

P (g)


4-5 140 2.20 25 17


5-6 168 2.65 25



6-7 195 3.10 25 17
400 7-8 223 3.55 28



8-9 250 4.00 31 23
500 9-10 278 4.45 31



10-11 310 4.90 31


600 11-12 336 5.35 31


Source: Nutrient Requirements of Livestock & Poultry, Recommendations of the Scientific Panel on Animal Nutrition & Physiology, ICAR, New Delhi, 1982.

Table 5. Nutrient requirement per kg milk production.

Fat (%)

DCP (g) TDN (g)





51 300
4.0 55



58 350
5.0 62



65 400
6.0 68



72 450
7.0 75


7.5 79


Note: 2.8g calcium and 2.0g phosphorus should be provided per kg of milk produced.
Source: Nutrient Requirements of Livestock & Poultry. Recommendations of the Scientific Panel on Animal Nutrition & Physiology, ICAR, New Delhi, 1982.

Table 6. Nutrient requirement of growing cattle (Growth rate: 550 g/day).

Live weight (kg)

DM (kg) DCP (g) TDN (kg) Ca (g)

P (g)


2.10 259 1.39 8 5
80 2.33 282 1.53 9



2.78 328 1.80 12 9
120 3.23 373 2.07 15



3.67 419 2.34 17 12
160 4.12 465 2.61 20



4.57 510 2.88 20 13
200 5.02 556 3.14 20



5.47 601 3.41 22 15
240 5.97 647 3.68 25


Source: Nutrient Requirements of Livestock & Poultry, Recommendations of the Scientific Panel on Animal Nutrition & Physiology, ICAR, New Delhi, 1982.

Table 7. Nutrient requirement of growing buffaloes (Growth rate: 450 g/day).

Live weight (kg)

DM (kg)

TDN (g)


1.97 1.24








3.10 1.91
140 3.56



4.01 2.45
180 4.46



4.21 2.98
220 5.36


Source: Nutrient Requirements of Livestock & Poultry, Recommenda-tions of the Scientific Panel on Animal Nutrition & Physiology, ICAR, New Delhi, 1982.

It is important that these nutrient requirements are met with a combination of roughages, fodder and concentrates. A judicious use of this combination is necessary to offer balanced feed to the animal. Since concentrates are made from various sources of ingredients, it is essential that standard specifications be maintained.

Specifications for Compounded Feed

As per the specifications issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the compounded cattle feeds shall be in the form of a meal or cubes or pellets. The feed shall be free from harmful constituents, metallic pieces and adulterants. The feed shall also be free from fungal growth, insect infestation, not fermented, musty, rancid or any other objectionable odour.

Many a times these types of data or tables are not available to a farmer. In such a case he is advised to use the following tips:

  • The total feed consumption of a cow is estimated at the rate of 3% of body weight on dry matter basis i.e. without moisture.
  • This proportion is 3.5% in case of buffaloes.
  • Feed recommendation is as follows-concentrates 1.5 kg for body maintenance and 0.4kg per litre of milk production. Roughages and fodder ad libitum. In this case 50% greens are advisable on dry matter basis. Conversion factors between, concentrates and fodder are given in Table 2.
  • Depending upon bodyweight and milk yield, one can choose between premium to lower end of concentrate compound volume.
  • This is especially in the context of the data given in the tables 4, 5, 6 and 7. It is observed that due to better feeding and breeding we are getting higher body weight in cows up to 350 kg and buffaloes up to 600 kg. They are also excellent milk yielders.

In such cases, high protein concentrates should be fed, with bypass protein/fat and greens ad libitum. Dry fodder has marginal use.