Project code: D-02-97

Team and Leader R Agnew

Organisations Involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Scottish Agricultural Colleges and ADAS

Background and Summary

The present systems of rationing dairy cattle (metabolisable energy and metabolisable protein systems) were put in place some time ago. These systems have major limitations, as they do not accurately predict how the dairy cow reacts to alteration in feed supply (energy or protein) and quality.

The present proposal is a United Kingdom wide initiative designed to develop a new feeding system, which can be universally adopted for feeding dairy cattle across the United Kingdom.


Commence programme October 1997

Integrated silage intake prediction system - March 1998
New methods for feed characterisation - March 1999
Computer model for dairy cow feeding - October 2001
Final Report Completed - June 2002


Feed constitutes the major cost in dairying systems and efficiency savings in this area would have major effects on profitability. For example a saving of only 1% in total feed costs could reduce overall industry costs by around £1,000,000 per annum. More accurate feeding could also improve the health and welfare of high producing dairy cattle.

Project News Update

A major programme of research has been undertaken at research centres across the United Kingdom to develop improved feed rationing systems for dairy cows. Hillsborough has had a lead role in this programme, which is designed to develop new methods for predicting food intake and energy and protein requirements of dairy cows. 

This research programme is funded by DEFRA, DARD, Scottish Office, MDC, AgriSearch and 28 commercial companies and has produced a new feed rationing system for adoption across the United Kingdom. This programme has now been completed and is available for use by the industry this winter.