For many milk producers, selling milk with higher butterfat adds profitability to the farm.
Back at 2011, butterfat averaged around $2.15 per hundred weight and that is no chump change. Hence, when milk fat levels go down, it is crucial to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Farmers usually blame hot weather as the leading cause of milk fat depression. However, there are many other factors that will affect the milk levels of the cows.
Here are 6 key areas to work on that can influence the milk fat levels:
It is important to analyse your total mixed ration (TMR). Ensure cows are fed consistently and in a timely matter. It is also vital to make sure the animals have ample of bunk space to avoid overcrowding. Avoid slug feeding as it will create subclinical acidosis which will affect milk fat levels.
2. Forages And Fiber In The Diet
Ensure there is sufficient forages and fiber in the cows' diet. Use the Penn State Shaker Box to evaluate the particle length. The target should be to have approximately 47% of the TMR at the bottom while 7% of it on top.
Cud chewing is a good sign of forage and fiber in the diet. Look for 50% or more of the pen to be chewing their cud. It is also important to evaluate the % of neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) and make sure that it is not too high.
3. Starch Content
Evaluate total weight and percent of starch is being fed to the cows. Using technology such as rumen degradable starch testing can help asses starch levels in the ration ingredients and how they would perform in the cow. Different ingredients will have different rate of fermenting. Hence, it will affect the dynamics of the rumen and thus have a major effect on the milk fat levels.
Being aware of the rate of starch digestion in the rumen is crucial when troubleshooting milk fat depression. Using rumen degradable starch testing will quickly allow you to rule out starch as the main source of milk fat depression.
4. Fats - saturated vs rumen inert
Evaluate the fat level and source in the diet. Ensure that not more than 5 % of fat is present in the diet. Be mindful of polyunsaturated fatty acid levels.
Once fat levels in the diet has be taken care of, next is to evaluate the source and quality of fat. Different fat has different compositions that will affect the milk fat.
5. Yeast And Molds
Analyse the level of yeast and mold in the diet. It is encouraged to lower the amount of feed that is coming from the affected source or dilute the affected source with other non-affected feedstuffs. Research has shown that yeast and mold have negative effects on milk fat level.
6. Feed Additives
Feed additives play a role in improving milk fat levels.
Fat supplements are a good choice to increase ration energy density. There are a wide variety of fat supplements in the market which include commodities such as tallow, yellow grease and commercial fat supplements which are designed to "bypass" the rumen. These commercial fat supplements are much preferred over other commodities as they have less effects on the rumen fermentation.
There are many factors that can cause the milk fat level to depress. It is therefore important to be aware of all components so that one can address these problems. One rule of thumb when feeding the cows is to feed exactly what the cows need, when she needs it and where she needs it. This approach will help the farmers improve milk yield and thus increasing bottom line of the farm.