Nutritionally Improved Straw Boosts Milk Yields, Study Finds

UK - New findings from independent trial work carried out by veterinary consultancy company, EBVC suggest replacing dietary fed straw with Nutritionally Improved Straw (NIS) can cost effectively increase yields, whilst maintaining milk butterfat.
calendar icon 16 May 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

A recent collaborative project between EBVC and Sundown Products, found that feeding NIS to high yielding dairy cows with good rumen health resulted in a 1.63 to 6.34 litre a cow a day lift in yields. Experience on some of EBVC’s client’s farms has also demonstrated the potential for NIS to help increase butterfats in herds where rumen health is sub-optimal.

NIS is made up of chopped and milled straw which has been treated with sodium hydroxide and pelleted. The resulting alkaline product acts as a rumen buffer, whilst providing compressed functional fibre in a pelleted form.

The NIS trials took place between 2013 and 2015 on three Holstein-Friesian herds with 305 day yields of between 9,200 litres and 10,000 litres.

On one cross-over trial on a 250 cow herd, 157 cows were either allocated the control diet or a treatment diet where straw was replaced with 1.5kg of NIS per head per day. Veterinary consultant, Richard Cooper from EBVC, who was involved in the trial work, say milk production was found to increase by 1.63 litres a cow a day, while butterfat yield remained constant.

He explains: “Although the NIS-fed cows had fractionally lower butterfat percentage due to the dilution effect of increased volume, the kilos of butterfat were unchanged. However, the yield increase meant feeding NIS proved cost effective. On this herd, at a milk price of 26ppl, NIS delivered a return on investment of 3.2:1.”

In an additional trial, 92 high yielding animals were fed on a base ration, whilst 110 animals were challenged by reducing forage intake by 0.53kgDM and increasing mixed cereals by 0.45kgDM and adding NIS at 0.88kgDM. On this herd, NIS-fed cows increased yield by 6.34 litres a cow a day, whilst maintaining kilos of butterfat.

Mr Cooper says the uplift in yields could be attributed to the improved digestibly of the NIS compared to straw, thanks to prior treatment with sodium hydroxide.

“In addition, potentially the rumen is healthier thanks to the functional fibre and rumen friendly pH of the NIS so there is better digestion of the whole ration, leading to improved yields,” he adds.

Mr Cooper explains that the main benefit of NIS is the fact that getting straw into cattle is easier due to the reduced ability for cows to sort it, compared to chopped straw.

“Our trial work shows that NIS could have a role to play in high output herds looking to achieve greater ration consistency and less sorting, and those looking to up yields,” he says.

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