Do any cows have empty rumens on your farm? It pays to make a daily check of the cow’s feed intake, in particular the risk groups – the fresh and close up dry cows. If you look on the left side of the cow, behind the last rib, you’ll get an idea of rumen fill in your herd. If you see a hollow triangle like the cow below, this cow did not eat enough today. Poor rumen fill in individual cows could indicate health issues. If a number of cows are the same, this could indicate a problem with ration composition and digestion. For a cow in lactation there should be no hollowing of the rumen.

Another indicator that the rumen is functioning efficiently is cudding behaviour. Cows should cud 55-70 times for each cud. Less than 55, in combination with an empty rumen can mean a lack of roughage in the diet. To check you should also push on the rumen to score the resistance. Soft and gassy is bad news, but very firm is best.
Belly fill is scored by standing behind the cow, look if the rumen is visible on the left side. If not, the cow did not eat enough in recent days. To check feed intake over the last month you score the body condition by picking up some skin in between the pin bone and the tail. If it is a deep hole with only skin, she did not get enough feed last month. If there is some fat under the skin this would be perfect. If there is a lot of fat under the skin, she ate too much, or her diet is not balanced to production.

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