Feed 4 Thought Issue 13

Milk protein the key to better prices

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With milk prices in decline, it is vital to do all you can to maximise the price received under the milk contract. UFAC UK’s David Bonsall says that for many farmers increasing milk protein will be a valuable strategy.

Over 50% of the milk in the UK is produced on constituent-based contracts so maximising milk composition is essential. While prices for butterfat are typically 1.25-3.00 p/% over the contract base level, for protein the range is 2.00-4.50p/%. This makes protein more valuable and increasing protein more profitable. Protein percent responds to changes in the diet, particularly energy and protein content. Look closely at the diet, particularly of early lactation cows. to ensure sufficient energy and quality protein to meet requirements.

Cows in negative energy balance will mobilise muscle as well as fat to meet the energy gap. As muscle contains protein, the diet needs to supply adequate protein and amino acids to restore the muscle. If the diet does not meet the cow’s needs, she will redirect nutrients to rebuild the muscle, using protein and amino acids usually used to produce milk protein. This will result in suppressed milk protein and lower milk prices. There are two feeding strategies that will help maintain and increase milk protein content. The first is to ensure rumen function is maximised to optimise the supply of microbial protein which is a major driver of milk protein content. This requires a balanced supply of rapidly and slowly fermented energy and protein while maintaining rumen pH. Feeding rumen inert balanced fatty acids such as Dynalac or Omega Cream in place of some of the cereals can help reduce rumen acid load and the risk of SARA, helping maintain rumen pH and so increase overall rumen efficiency, optimising cow health and total milk components. The second is to ensure the diet contains sufficient bypass protein which is used for both milk protein and muscle regeneration. Even if muscle is not being replaced, a shortage of bypass protein will depress milk protein yield. Including Promega or Promega Plus in the diet will deliver the bypass protein cows require to complement rumen synthesised microbial protein. The methionine in Promega Plus boosts the supply of this essential, but often limiting amino acid. The opportunity to increase milk components, particularly protein, to help support milk prices needs to be grasped. The starting point is making sure the diet delivers exactly what the cow needs.



Welcome from Robert Jones, MD

While many dairy farmers will be looking forward to turnout, they will also be facing up to lower milk prices. The honeymoon period of higher prices is fading into the memory and the focus now must be on driving efficiency.

At times like these it is important to divert your energies to the things that can make a difference to your business and those you can change, rather than investing time in worrying about things you have no influence over. Milk compositional quality is an area worthy of a great deal of attention as 50% of milk is sold on contracts paying significant premiums for fat and protein. New data and a better understanding of dairy nutrition have opened the door to more efficient manipulation of milk quality, giving farmers a real opportunity to recover some of the lost milk price. Over the coming months I believe the key will be to get cows producing efficiently with high levels of milk from forage combined with optimum milk quality, to get cows back in calf to ensure future production potential and to keep cows healthy, avoiding the hidden losses associated with mastitis, lameness and infertility. For dairy farmers, the challenge is to identify and grasp the opportunities that are there to drive efficiency. Our team is here to help deliver efficient and effective diets and we will be delighted to offer a second opinion on your rations.



Be prepared for heat stress

With the cold, wet spring fresh in the memory, it may seem optimistic to talk about long periods of hot weather, but as Mark Townsend from UFAC UK explains, we don’t need a heat wave before heat stress will start to compromise cow performance on a really hot summer’s day you would probably feel less energetic and less inclined to eat as much as usual. Well, cows are just the same. Cows begin to suffer symptoms of heat stress as soon as temperatures rise above 15°C (60°F), which means that virtually every day of the grazing season they will be affected. High humidity makes the effects of heat stress worse. As soon as they start to suffer from heat stress there is a cascade effect which leads to reduced milk yields, lower milk fat content and a risk of poorer fertility. The first thing is that they become less active and have increased respiration rates, often over 60 breaths per minute. How often do we see cows sheltering under trees and hedges trying to keep cool? Because they are less active, they will drink less and also eat less. The combination of depressed dry matter intakes, often by 10%, reduced energy intakes and suppressed water intakes will lead to lower yields. So, it is important to do what you can to reduce the effect of heat and humidity.


Ensuring an adequate supply of clean water is crucial but we can also finetune the diet and one simple action is to change the energy sources. The rumen is a huge internal generator of heat as forages and cereals are fermented and heat is an unavoidable consequence of this. This heat released due to rumen digestion can contribute significantly to the overall negative effects of heat on cows. On the other hand, highly digestible rumen inert fats with a balanced fatty acid profile, are digested in the small intestines with no heat being produced in this process. In addition, highly digestible fats have at least twice the energy content of cereals meaning they can boost the energy content of the overall diet. Rumen inert fats also help reduce the risk of SARA and acidosis so helping maintain effective rumen function. Replacing cereals with rumen inert fats like Omega Cream can reduce the heat of digestion and so reduce the heat load on cows. By increasing the energy density of the diet they can lessen the impact of any reduction in dry matter intakes and lower the overall consequences of heat stress. In addition the balanced combination of C16:0 (Palmitic acid) and C18:1 (Oleic acid) improves NDF digestibility, meaning cows can make better use of the feed they actually eat.


Feeding to improve butterfats this spring and summer


A better understanding of how butterfat is produced makes it possible to feed cows more successfully for higher milk quality, as UFAC UK’s Mike Chown explains. It used to be thought that 50% of butterfat came from VFAs produced by rumen fermentation of digestible fibre and 50% from the oils in the diet. New milk fatty acid analysis by NMR and CIS suggests that as much as 75% of butterfat is actually directly derived from the oils in the diet, making dietary fats and oils even more important. To maximise fat production, you need to make sure the basic diet is right and then ensure enough oil/fat in the diet. For the basic diet you need to establish and maintain an effective rumen fermentation and maximise dry matter intakes. Key to this will be factors including feeding frequency and feed space, balancing the sources of energy to ensure rumen synchrony and reduce acidosis risk, and avoiding sudden changes to the ration. For grazing cows it will be vital to maintain grazing quantity and quality. Don’t leave the contribution from grazing to chance. Measure it and manage it so that cows are getting plenty of high-quality grazing. Clean water is vital for maintaining intakes. Then the issue is providing sufficient fat or oil. Table 1 shows the dietary fat requirements for different yield and fat percentage combinations.

Table 1 Dietary fat
(g/cow/day) requirements for different combinations
Litres 28 32 36 40
B Fat %
3.80 798 912 1026 1140
3.90 819 936 1053 1170
4.00 840 960 1080 1200
4.10 861 984 1107 1230
4.20 882 1008 1134 1260

Quite simply, if you don’t provide enough oil you won’t get the fat yield and fat percentage. You also increase the risk of cow’s mobilising body fat leading to condition score loss. Grazing supplementation The first problem is that grazing and silage are poor sources of oil. Cows eating 12kg forage DM/day will get approximately 320g/day of oil derived from rumen function so will need supplementation if butterfat production is to be maintained. A 32 litre cow at 4.0% fat produces 1280g/day of butterfat. In addition to the 320g from the rumen, she requires a further 960g of dietary fat. So it is essential to know the oil content of supplementary feeds. TMR fed herds face a potential problem as most commonly used straights such as cereals and oilseed meals are 2.5-3.5% fat, making it hard to get the fat intakes required to support higher milk yield, butterfat levels and fertility. Table 2 shows target oil contents in diets to meet requirements.

Table 2
Net dietary oil requirement (%/DM)
Litres 28 32 36 40
DMI (KGS) 21 22 23 24
B Fat %
3.80 3.80 4.15 4.46 4.75
3.90 3.90 4.25 4.58 4.88
4.00 4.00 4.36 4.70 5.00
4.10 4.10 4.47 4.81 5.13
4.20 4.20 4.58 4.93 5.25

If our cow giving 32 litres at 4.0% is eating 22kgDM/day, the diet must be a minimum of 4.36% oil/kgDM. The most effective way to ensure sufficient supplementation is to include balanced dietary fats in the TMR. You need to ensure products added are rumen inert and highly digestible, with a blend of essential fatty acids from digestible oils and C16 fats combined with glycerol to increase energy utilisation. Fed at 300-750g/cow/day,

UFAC’s Dynalac, Buta-Cup Extra and Omega Cream are proven to supply the essential fatty acids required to support higher butterfats and complement the rest of the diet. Being rumen – inert they help reduce the risk of acidosis and will not compromise the digestion of the rest of the diet. When considering fat levels in the diet, pay particular attention to the RUFAL (rumen unsaturated fatty acid loading) of the diet. High RUFAL levels can compromise rumen fermentation. Some feeds like distillers may appear high in oils but can actually suppress butterfat, as rather than supplying effective oils, the high RUFAL content disrupts the normal butterfat production pathway. Total diet fat Compound feeds will not usually supply sufficient oils. Compounds typically contain 5.5% oils making it difficult to achieve adequate oil intakes at typical feed rates. By paying close attention to the total diet it should be possible for many farmers to maintain milk prices and margins this summer by pursuing a strategy of improving butterfat percent. But it will be essential to monitor performance, costs and returns hawkishly to make sure that you are making a worthwhile return.


Omega 3 supplement increases ET conception rates

Using Omega 3 Supplement has helped one of the UK’s foremost Limousin herds achieved improved success with ET. The Glenrock herd of Limousins from Howgillside near Lockerbie is run by Stephen Illingworth, his wife Helen and their son Thomas. They moved to the farm from Yorkshire in 1995. The aim of the herd had been to breed top quality bulls for both the pedigree and commercial markets. Their policy was to source the best possible bulls, complimented with judicious use of AI. This strategy allows the herd to make the best use of available genetics. In 2014 they were given the opportunity to buy the farm and took the decision to sell the vast majority of the herd, which totalled 45 cows mainly going back to three dominant female families to fund the purchase. They retained the matriarch of the herd, Glenrock Spangle who has produced progeny worth over £500,000 in her lifetime, including the world record Glenrock Illusion who sold for £125,000. They then set about rebuilding the herd using an extensive embryo transfer programme. Stephen has used ET for many years, producing around six ET calves per year so was experienced with the techniques. They purchased 50 Simmental x Luing heifers from high health status herds across Scotland to use as recipients for embryos, principally collected from Glenrock Spangle.

“We were comfortable with using ET and were confident we could establish another outstanding herd based on some of our initial genetics and by using leading AI sires,” Stephen comments. Conception rates are the key to costeffective ET programmes and after discussions with David Bonsall from UFAC and Simon Mellor from McCaskies Farm Supplies, the Illingworths agreed to trial UFAC Omega 3 Supplement. Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) play a key role in reproductive functions. They help ensure strong follicles which result in larger, more viable eggs and stronger cycling behaviour. Secondly, they help reduce early embryo mortality by stimulating higher levels of progesterone and lower concentrations of prostaglandin at the time of conception. For the study, two pens of heifers were fed 100g/animal per day of Omega 3 Supplement for six weeks prior to implantation and six weeks after, until pregnancy diagnosed. A third group acted as a control and was not supplemented. All other management and ET procedures were the same across all groups. In the trial 32 heifers were synchronised and 27 embryos implanted. The conception rate in the treated groups was 55%, while for the control animals it was 50%, giving a 10% increase in conception rate in treated animals. Stephen says: “We know from our experience that the results with ET can vary considerably as so many elements have to fall into place.

“We were rather disappointed with the initial results which we think, in part, were due to implanting a higher proportion of IVF embryos which tend to have a lower conception rate. However, we were impressed that the supplemented heifers had a 10% higher conception rate”. Heifers not in calf initially were then re-synchronised. The result were significantly better with an 84% conception rate in treated animals and 74% in the control. “The results for the second batch were far better, possibly as fewer IVF embryos were used. Yet again the Omega 3 Supplement helped deliver a 14% increase in conception rate. “At a cost of £7.14 per cow for the supplementation, it would be an easy decision to use Omega 3 Supplement in future,” Stephen continues. “In simple terms every extra Spangle calf is a huge bonus and we got a 10% improvement which is particularly welcome as Spangle is now 18 years old and deserves to go into retirement.” David Bonsall comments: “The study clearly shows the impact Omega 3 Supplement has on reproductive performance, making it a valuable addition to the diets for dairy cows, dairy heifers and commercial beef cattle as well as leading pedigree herds.”


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