Cows managed within organic and low input dairy systems (OLIDS) are usually fed on forage-based diets which are supplemented with relatively small proportions of concentrates. These diets typically contain a lower nutrient and energy density and are more bulky as compared to diets fed in intensive, high- input dairy systems. The lower nutritional density results in the need for cows to ingest greater amounts of feed in order to maintain a certain level of performance.
From a scientific point of view, it is expected that the consequences of forage-dominated OLIDS-diets (i.e. greater gut fill, greater gut mass, more work needed in digestion of the diet, greater heat production of internal organs, etc.) may result in an overall increased energy requirement for maintenance, which is not always properly accounted for in rationing systems. Results from a calorimetric study conducted within the SOLID project show that the maintenance energy requirement is significantly affected by dietary forage proportion. The immediate practical impact for OLIDS of this effect may however be limited. This issue will be discussed in reference to selected feed rationing programmes.