ON dairy farms, there are usually three diets to consider – the one on the nutritionist's computer, the one the farmer feeds and the one the cow actually eats! Of course, it is the last one of these that is important and if it is incorrect in terms of nutrient supply and/or rumen health characteristics, the consequences will be unhealthy cows and reduced production. Many elements have to be assessed when considering dairy cow nutrition, so it is essential to adopt a logical and consistent approach in order to make a holistic and informed opinion about how cows are utilising their diet. It is also desirable that such an on-farm review is carried out within a reasonable time frame (eg, three hours) and for it to be practically feasible for the veterinary surgeon and farmer alike. This article describes the initial approach to a rumen health visit and discusses how to interpret the results obtained, although some findings may warrant further diagnostic work.
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