If you’re in any business, you’re pretty familiar with the concept of trying to get the most bang for your buck. Dairy farming is no different. By trying to get the most product from your investments and inputs, you ensure the viability of your operation.

Milk yields in dairy cows are an integral aspect of dairy farming. By ensuring dairy cows are healthy, comfortable, and safe, you can maximise milk yields per cow and get the most return on investment for your dairy farm.

Not all dairy farms are the same and milk yields can vary drastically from one farm to another. Let’s take a look at what factors have the greatest impact on milk yields and how it can be optimised.

What are Milk Yields?

Milk yield is the amount of milk produced by one cow per day. A dairy cow will produce an average of 28 litres per day over a period of 10 months.

Peak lactation, also known as peak milk yields, is the point where the cow reaches the highest milk production. This normally occurs four to ten weeks after calving. A high-yielding cow may produce as much as 60 litres per day and up to 12,000 litres over her whole lactation.

How to Increase Milk Production in Dairy Cows

A happy cow producing more milk correlates with increasing your businesses profitability. Cow’s typically lactate for 290 to 310 days a year, but milk production is dependent on many different variables. Many aspects of animal husbandry are easily overlooked, but they can cause severe discrepancies in the production of milk. Let’s take a look at how you can maximise your cow’s milk production.

Switching to Indoor Farming

Keeping your cattle in a well-ventilated, clean, and temperate barn reduces the stress of your cows significantly. Cows produce a lot of body heat and struggle to regulate their own temperature and this can severely affect their health. By keeping your cows inside, you can monitor, manage, and maintain the temperature and humidity, their feed, their health, their reproduction, and their hygiene. Their effluent can even be used for composting and fertiliser. All of these factors can improve milk yield.

At SmartShelters we have collected substantial data from our customers who switched to our composting barns and other shelters. With this information we estimate a 10-20% increase a year for 3 or 4 years when switching to a SmartShelter.

Dry Period

Dry period: The dry period refers to a period of 40 – 60 days during which the cow should not be milked before calving. This is divided into two groups:

  • Far-off (60 – 21 days before calving);
  • Close up (21 days before calving).

This time is crucial to the future milk yield of your dairy cow and the health of both mother and calf. Research has consistently shown that a successful dry period with no milking will lead to greater milk production going forward.

Body Condition Score (BCS)

Body Condition Score is an estimate of the dairy cow’s energy balance rated from 1, very thin, up to 5, excessively fat. It is important that their diet is monitored, especially during the dry period, to maintain ideal BCS. Overweight cows are likely to have difficulty calving while underweight cows can have difficulty lactating. Milk production thrives if dairy cows maintain a medium BCS.


To encourage your cows to produce a higher quantity of milk, feed is one of the most important considerations to manage. If your dairy cows are pasture-fed, scour your pastures for any toxic plants or weeds such as ferns, acorns, and apples. These can also occur in the dry matter along with excessive non-protein nitrogen and mycotoxins. Toxins absorbed by your cattle can be detrimental to their milk production.

You can feed your lactating cows up to 50kg of feed per day per cow. A mixture of chopped maize stalks, oats, grass, Napier, desmodium, soya beans, and silage (only fed to milk producers) will produce healthy cows good for optimum milk yields.

If cows are kept inside they are warmer and more comfortable so don’t need the extra energy through feed intake. Even if milk production remains the same, by keeping cows in a barn you can increase feed utilisation but reduce feed intake and in turn increase your profit margins. Not all farmers want to increase milk production as this can lead to other issues and might not suit their lifestyle. Cows can eat 1.5 tons of feed per year so by optimally utilizing the feed and saving 20% of supplementary feed, farms can save $100 or more a year per animal.

Maintain Accurate Records

As a manager of a dairy farm, it’s incredibly important to keep track of each cow and record detailed data, from their health and feed intake to insemination and reproduction. This will help to identify patterns, learn best practices, and bring any issues to your attention so you can address them accordingly to ensure top quality milk production.

Treatment of Cattle

The way you treat your cows is instrumental to their stress levels and productivity. Each staff member should be trained on how to treat your cattle with the utmost respect. Cows can be highly strung and can react to stress negatively, significantly affecting their milk yield to the point where they may produce no milk at all.

Something as simple as herding the cattle into the milking shed can cause a lot of stress, but walking them in slowly and calmly can avoid this. Never slap, shout at, or rush your cows.

Cleanliness and Comfort

Cows like their comfort. They are tranquil animals and they lie down a lot! The more energy they exert, the less energy goes into milk production, so the more comfortable they are, the higher their milk yields will be. Additionally, the cleaner their environment, the healthier they will be, so you’ll have fewer issues with infection and illness.

Multiple studies have shown that cows that are more comfortable produce more milk throughout their productive life. There are many aspects of a cow’s well-being, but their shelter and bedding play a major part in their productive capacity. CBP bedding provides a soft ground and the microbiota of the composting organic material has an added benefit of restricting the growth of pathogenic bacteria that often cause mastitis in cows. The freedom to move in a CBP barn increases activity and exercise levels, and combined with the freedom to feed, these factors increase dairy output. The provision of organic fertiliser from the bedding enables more productive pastures as well, decreasing the need for synthetic feeds and synthetic fertilisers and enabling the cows to indirectly contribute to their own productive capacity.

Ultimately, the decision to switch to composting barns is borne out by the data. Healthier cows produce more milk solids per head. Bedding becomes organic fertiliser to improve your yields without the additional expense of artificial fertilisers. If you’re a commercial dairy farmer and you want to be more profitable, investing in the conversion to composting barns will pay dividends.

How Many Litres of Milk Does a Cow Produce Per Day?

The amount of milk produced by your dairy cows will vary depending on the breed of cow, the time of year, and her menstrual cycle. On average, a dairy cow produces 28 litres of milk per day over a period of 10 months. For just the benefit of a calf, a normal cow would only produce around 4 litres of milk a day.

What Causes Low Milk Production in Dairy Cows?

If your cows are not receiving or eating enough of the right feed, they will not produce high yields of milk. Additionally, imbalances in energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, and salt can contribute to reduced peak milk. If anaemia is present and severe or persistent, production can also be greatly affected.

A balanced diet is essential to get the most milk production from your lactating dairy cattle. Your dairy cattle feed should consist of natural grazing elements and also include added vitamins and minerals.

Which Breed of Dairy Cow has the Highest Milk Production?

Holstein Friesian cows originating from the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland and Schleswig-Holstein cows from Northern Germany are known as the highest producing dairy cows in the world. They are the most widespread cross bred cows present in more than 150 countries across the globe.

In New Zealand, almost half of all cows are crossbred Holstein Friesian and more than 30% are H.F. purebred.