The foundation of dairy ration is made up of protein, fibber, starch and fat. Through technology, we are able to understand more precisely what goes into the cow making many of the older rule of thumb outdated.
Today, we have more refined rule of thumb that will help us evaluate the value of protein, fiber, starch and fat levels to feed the cow. It all starts with analysing your forage.
Crude protein is no longer king.
When analysing forage sample, it is important to focus on the numbers that will help us manage the protein fractions in the ration and minimise crude protein.
Amount of ammonia present in the forage will let us know how much of the feed is fermented and how much energy discount is needed to apply as the forage is fed to the cows.
Excessive ammonia in the forage reduces useful fermentable nutrients of those feedstuffs.
It is equally important to understand the rate and extent of protein digestibility to help predict how much metabolisable protein to supply the cow and therefore available for milk and milk protein production.
Amount of forage fed to the cows is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of the forages available.
Hence, it is crucial to know the specific needs of the group of cows so that forage fed to them can be tailored to their needs.
Today, forage samples are not just evaluated based on how much acid detergent fiber (ADF) and NDF they contain.
It is equally important to know the NDF digestibility at different time points and uNDF in order to evaluate the fiber's value in the diet more precisely as well as understand the potential energy contribution of that feedstuff.
When analysing forage, starch as a percent of dry matter has been an important number for years.
However, in those days, the only important thing is to look at the starch content.
Nowadays, it is important to know how degradable the starch is and how quickly it will ferment in th erumen.
Anything added to the cow's diet will take up space, including starch sources.
Adding more degradable starches in the cow's diet will reduce total dietary starch and tailor the diet to meet the requirements of the cows in order to get them off to a good start.
There are many fat sources available for the cow's diet but not all fats are created equally.
It is important to balance different types of fatty acids in the diet and tailor it towards the cow's requirement.
The goal is to manage energy balance and milk fat production instead of letting milk fat production manage us.
Studies have shown that C16:0 fatty acids have positive effect on butterfat production.
Adding unsaturated fatty acids at excessive levels such as corn silage can depress milk fat production.