• Jin Gan

Improving Dairy Efficiency


It is truly fascinating that the milk yield per cow per day continues to increase throughout the years. Efficiency of ruminal fermentation and digestibility of the dietary components are key factors in improving the efficiency of fed we use in today's diet.

Today, farmers are feeding mainly total mixed ration (TMR) with new management techniques as well as pasture systems. There is also major improvements in the use of protein, carbohydrates and fats in mix diets.

Many studies have shown that better feed quality, increased overall diet digestibility, alternative feed ingredients, new technology and improved efficiency of ruminal fermentation is the way forward to tackle today's dairy nutrition. Dairy nutrition is changing rapidly today. It is crucial to understand all the nutritional interactions, management tools and its constraints in order to make better decisions towards better animal health and performance.

The rumen

  • The largest of cow's 4 stomach is the rumen

  • The rumen contains more than 500 different microbes including yest, protozoa and bacteria which are important to ultilise all the feed ingredients and nutrients offered in the diet.

  • The rumen also has papillae in order to increase absorption of nutrients.

  • The rumen also produces volatile fatty acids for energy, makes protein from non-protein sources like nitrogen and builds up peptides or amino acid sequences.

  • It also produces methane and carbon dioxide as a byproduct from fermentation and digestion.

How much do cows eat and what affects intake?

  • We must first try to understand feed intake and major factors that affect total intake.

  • Some of the factors that affect intake include body weight, milk production, heat stress, growth, types of fiber offered.

  • On average, the cows will eat around 2 % of her body weight in terms of dry matter.

  • We also need to add around 1/3 of her dairy milk production in terms of dry matter as well as a couple of pounds of dry matter milk for milk solids.

  • A rough calculation is shown below:

  • Cow's body weight x 2% = 1,400 lbs x 2% = 28 lbs (DM)

  • Milk production / 3 = 90 lbs/3 = 30 lbs (DM)

  • 2 lbs (DM) for milk components

  • This leaves us around 60 lbs of dry matter.

  • High fiber, poor management, insufficient fed delivery, heat stress and so on can reduce intake up to around 30% or more.

What is dairy efficiency and how do we increase it?

  • Feed efficiency is basically defined as the percentage of dry matter offered that is converted to milk.

  • For example, if a cow eats 55 pounds of dry matter per day and produces 88 pounds of milk per day, her efficiency is 1.6.

  • The goal is to reach eat least 1.4 efficiency.

  • Forage plays a crucial role in reducing ration cost and improve cow's health.

  • Cereal and grains continue to be one of the main contributors of starch to diets.

  • Feeding byproducts allow for new feedstuff to be used in diets that would otherwise be thrown away.

  • Many of these byproducts are filled with protein, fiber, fat and minerals.

  • Good management of rations can also help overcome problems such as:

  • Poor forage

  • Heat stress

  • Limited bunk space

  • Poor storage facilities

  • Insufficient feed delivery

  • Finally, it is crucial to monitor feed intake and TMR compliance.

  • It is also important to test your TMR mix in the lab at least once a month to ensure the quality of it.

  • If fresh feed is delivered at least twice a day, sufficient fresh, clean water is provided, dry mater intake will increase which will help with the efficiency.

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