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Amino Acid Supplement Gets More Milk From Alfafa

12 June 2009

US - New dairy industry research suggests supplements of an essential amino acid can improve milk production from alfalfa silage, which can constitute a large portion of the forage dry matter of lactating cow rations in the Midwest.

South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia said recent research findings published in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science suggest production can be improved on alfalfa silage-based diets by increasing the supply of methionine, the most limiting essential amino acid for milk production. Researchers G. A. Broderick and R. E. Muck of the Agricultural Research Service’s U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis., did the study.

Alfalfa silage in these trials was of good quality, similar to the silage that can be found elsewhere in the region, with protein content in excess of 22 per cent. Cows ate 48 pounds of dry matter, of which 20 pounds was alfalfa silage, 12 pounds corn silage, 12 pounds high moisture shelled corn, 1.7 pounds of soybean meal, 1.9 pounds of roasted beans, 1.3 pounds of ground corn plus mineral and vitamin supplements. When cows were supplemented with 13 grams of a commercial rumen protected methionine, product there was a difference of 2 additional pounds in milk production whereas feed efficiency (pounds of milk produced with 1 pound of feed) improved from 1.66 to 1.72.

“At current market prices the supplement represents almost 16 cents per day for a response of 2 pounds of milk, or approximately 20 cents in return,” Garcia said. “But more importantly, what also has to be factored in this calculation is that at current high feed prices, improving feed efficiency by 4 per cent results in an additional 20 cents deducted from the feed costs. That is, the additional milk produced and the increased feed efficiency put about 25 cents extra per cow in the producer’s pocket at the end of the day.”

Milk obtained by strategically making use of feed additives is what can be called “opportunity milk,” Garcia noted. This is the milk where all expenses are already paid for and is thus the one that gives the best return on investment. Reducing feed costs only makes economic sense if substituting a feed ingredient or removing an additive does not impact production or reproduction in the short or long term.

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