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Livestock Event: Better Nutrition to Enhance Farm Profitability

16 June 2015

UK - Around 65 per cent of the feed in the EU is used in dairy and beef production.

Because of this, ruminant nutritionists have a responsibility to ensure feed is used in an efficient way, not only from a cost point of view but also from resources point of view.

This has to be done through the diet.

Recent research has shown that methionine, a proteinogen amino acid, could positively affect dairy cow fertility.

Methionine and Embryos

As a conclusion of this study (by Ikeda et al. (2012)), Ikeda stated that methionine has an essential role in the development of the bovine embryo from morula to blastocyst.

This is an important step in the preimplantation of embryos and therefore fertility.

Moreover Wiltbank et al. (2014) showed that the dramatic induction of the rate-limiting amino acids, methionine, histidine and lysine, in the uterine fluid of pregnant cows near the time of embryo elongation suggests that elevated amounts of these amino acids may be critical for this important stage of embryo development.

Amino acid nutrition is one of the most quickly developing sciences in dairy nutrition.

It is becoming more obvious that dairy cow amino acid nutrition can be an important tool to drive farm efficiency and profitability.

Globally, amino acid (AA) balancing follows two goals:

  1. to improve efficiency of protein utilization
  2. to minimise the risk of reduced performance because of only one or two AA being limiting

Practically, it can be used in two different formulation approaches depending on what the volatile market asks for:

  • “ON TOP” application: This approach refers to adding extra Met to the feed with a rumen protected Met (RPMet) supplement to meet requirements and increase animal performance. The RPMet supplement is added to the diet (A). This is a typical strategy at higher milk prices or when it is clear that absorbable Met is limiting production.
  • Reformulation: Performs at least as well, but with a lower supply of rumen undegradable feed protein (RUP) so that overall ration CP can be lowered. Thanks to rumen protected (RP)-AA, the farmer can target an ideal AA profile, allowing better N-efficiency and usually a less expensive feed formulation (B). This is a preferred strategy for the farm manager at low milk prices and high raw material costs. It is always a strategy for the feed mill to produce the same quality feed at lower costs, thereby offering competitive products.

Metabolism and Methionine

Methionine is a key nutrient in transition cow nutrition, not only as a building block for protein synthesis but as a key intermediate to enhance the metabolic processes.

This can lead to better liver function, oxidative and inflammatory status, allowing the cow to withstand the challenges of the transition phase of lactation and to improve reproduction.

A positive side effect of amino acid nutrition is the reduction of the N-excretion.

In today’s world amino acid nutrition in dairy nutrition is becoming ever more important, as the milk quotas will soon be gone and with them a new dairy market will be open to threats and opportunities.

Volatile Times

This year sees a series of questions being posed by dairy farmers.

  • How will milk prices be affected?
  • Will my farm survive?
  • Am I ready for a free market?
  • Was the quota system so bad?
  • Did the soft landing have its effect?

For the past 30 years the dairy industry has been confined as a protective industry.

With the removal of the EU constraints, opportunities will open for farmers to export to new markets including Asia on a greater scale.

These opportunities need to be competitive and for that, European farmers will need to optimize their long term farm profitability and reduce milk production cost.

Following the last IFCN report, Europe holds some of the areas with the highest milk production cost in the world with Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain and all Scandinavian countries as top areas.

Moreover, these areas are expected to have the highest increase in milk production after the quota.

Would Higher Production Compensate for the Production Cost?

Apart from improved farm management, feed cost, which represents in some areas more than 50 per cent of the total milk production cost, should be optimized.

Efficient feed management needs to guarantee that animal requirements are met. During ration formulation, generally we all look at common parameters such as energy, starch, fibre, crude protein, minerals and vitamins.

But those are big pieces of a puzzle that hide small but important key nutrients. This is the case for crude protein that hides the amino acids.

Effect on Nitrogen

Amino acid nutrition improves N-efficiency in the overall farm. Its impact goes from milk production, milk quality and animal health to reducing the N-load to the environment. Balancing the dairy ration with rumen protected methionine and lysine is an additional step to secure profitability in the dairy sector.

Following these dairy farmer’s needs, Kemin has developed Ruminox, a combination of soybean GMO-free and Smartamine M, the reference rumen-protected methionine in the market.

Ruminox has a pH sensitive coated methiomine, giving a high level of rumen protection with complete release in the abomasum for total absorption in the small intestine.

According to Kemin this has an impact on milk production, particularly at the beginning of lactation.

Improving digestive performance can have a valuable impact on cow health with productivity gains, particularly at peak lactation.

Research by feed and animal nutrition company Alltech has resulted in the development of a balanced protein source ideally matched to the nutritional needs of the dairy cow.

Rumagen, combines slow-release nitrogen plus very high quality protein, including a full range of essential amino acids.

It is similar to microbial protein, and therefore easily digested, and improves digestive performance.

Alltech says that this can have a valuable impact on cow health with productivity gains, at peak lactation, of between 3-5 litres/cow/day1.

By supplying a steady supply of nitrogen, Rumagen both feeds and multiplies the fibre digesting bugs in the rumen, improving fibre digestion and giving an increase in energy with all the resulting benefits.

With fibre digesting bugs themselves, once digested, being the cow’s ideal source of protein, this increased population also provides a boost in valuable protein.

It is a high quality protein containing a full range of essential amino acid representing a similar profile to microbial protein and are easily digested by cows.

Feeding both the fibre digesting bugs themselves, and the cow, they also result in better digestion, bigger appetites, increased dry matter intakes and, as a result better health and improved yields.

Alltech says that Rumagen’s balanced nutrition, and improvement in fibre digestion, makes it an ideal addition to the transition diet - the last three to four weeks of the dry period.

Improving aerobic stability and reducing dry matter loss in silages can improve the quality of the silage reducing the spoilage and threat of a build up of mould and lengthening the life of the feed.

This Year's Livestock Event

At the Livestock Event, Volac will be introducing an additive for silages Ecocool, designed for grass, maize and wholecrop silages to maximise aerobic stability at feed-out and complement its Ecosyl range of silage additives.

Ecocool has been developed over a three year trial period at Volac’s Port Talbot silage additive manufacturing site and has full approval under the EU Regulation 1831/2003.

The new additive has been proven to provide up to an additional four days of stability over untreated silage thereby offering farmers more flexibility with their forage and significantly reducing the risk of yeast and mould growth.

Those four days could also save up to £7,000* in lost feed value in a 1,000 tonne clamp of maize representing an approximate 4:1 in investment.

The additive features a combination of two bacterial strains; PJB/1, a new strain of Lactobacillus buchneri developed by Volac shown to improve aerobic stability, and the globally recognised L plantarum MTD/1, which has for over 25 years been proven to reduce dry matter losses as well as giving improved fermentation and animal performance.

Volac’s Derek Nelson said: “Aerobic stability is becoming an increasingly important issue since many farmers are making higher dry matter grass, cereal and maize silages.

“During the last five years, average forage dry matter has increased by five per cent according to our own analyses of silage taken on 200 farms.

“Also, with many more farms buffer-feeding or housing cows all year round, the risk of aerobic spoilage is considerably higher.

“Ecocool has also been developed to meet the growing demand for a low volume application product by large scale farmers and contractors to combat this issue.”

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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