Prices of feed has been increasing in recent times. Hence, we should focus our attention on feed efficiency instead of price to ensure that each pound of feed is utilised fully to maximise output.
By definition, feed efficiency measures how many pounds of milk are produce by 1 pound of feed. Generally, the goal is to produce 1.5 pounds of milk for every pound of feed consumed. Hence, a cow producing 80 pounds of milk should eat around 53 pounds of dry matter.
2 main keys to focus on are ration and rumen. What the cows eat will influence the digestibility and influence the rumen microbial population as well as rate of feedstuff breakdown.
Corn silage usage has been increasing as of late for many reasons.
One of the main reason is because it is relatively cheap and provides good amount of energy to the diet.
It is also easily grown, harvested and ensiled.
Because of its widespread use, corn silage digestibility and efficiency are especially crucial.
There are also a variety of high quality silage hybrids which has certain benefits or traits rather than just providing energy value. These silage hybrids modify:
Kernel strength - Softer kernels breaks down easier by the rumen, thus improving the fermentation of the cows.
Lignin levels - Lower lignin levels means more digestible matter.
Digestible fiber - The more digestible fiber there is, the more available energy for milk production, reducing the amount of corn needed to produce the same amount of milk.
Starch levels - Starch serves as a key energy source. Sufficient starch is needed for the daily requirements of the animals.
The importance of rumen microbes cannot be overstated. They are responsible for the breakdown and digestion of nutrients.
If fed properly, rumen microbes have the ability to breakdown more feed and produce more energy for the cows, improving the feed efficiency.
When feeding high corn silage diets, there seems to be a fine line between overfeeding high energy feedstuff and not meeting the cow's energy requirements.
When the energy levels rise above what is required, rumen pH drops, killing microbial populations, causing rumen acidosis.
One of the benefits of feeding nutrient-dense corn silage hybrids is that it serves as an energy source to the cows while also providing digestible fiber which keeps the rumen microbes healthy.
Studies have also shown that volatile fatty acids (VFAs) produced by the rumen microbes during digestion are a good measure of ration digestibility.
Cows fed with high quality corn silage hybrids produced 13% more VFAs on average, showing improvement in digestibility and a healthy rumen environment.
Proper management plays an important role in feed efficiency as well.
Feed efficiency can be improved by minimising stress faced by the animals, directing more energy to milk production.
It is also important to ensure that the cows are kept at a cool place so that cows spend less energy dissipating heat.
Ration should also be kept out of the weather to maintain palatability and high dry matter intake (DMI).
Farmers should keep a close eye on the fluctuations of DMI and milk production.
Monitor feed efficiency on a regular basis to identify any major trend changes in feed efficiency.
Feed prices are getting higher, causing ration costs to increase.
To get the most out of every dollar spent, it is important to improve feed efficiency by focusing on ration and rumen.