Choose fats for early lactation carefully
Fats can play a significant role in the diets of early lactation cows, helping get them settled into lactation, producing high quality milk while regaining body condition and preparing for rebreeding. But as, UFAC’s Mike Chown, advises, all fats are not created equal and selecting the wrong balance of fatty acids, rather than setting cows up for a profitable lactation can precipitate a whole host of problems. “Everyone knows the transition period is crucial for a successful lactation,” Mike comments. “For optimum performance, fresh calved cows need a diet that can achieve several different objectives. It must provide the balanced nutrients to support the recovery of body condition post calving, to achieve target yields of high quality milk and ensure good reproductive performance. “We are all too familiar with diets that do not provide sufficient energy, leading to continued negative energy balance, body condition loss, disappointing production and fertility. Fatty acids are commonly added to early lactation diets to help increase energy density to boost total energy intake in order to reduce negative energy balance.
“However, while the correct balance of fatty acids will help achieve this and support production and fertility, the wrong balance can compromise the entire lactation.”
Avoid C16 fatty acids While C16 fatty acids are a valuable addition to the diet of mid and late lactation cows, helping drive production and compositional quality, they are not suited to the requirements of fresh cows. High levels of C16 is associated with insulin resistance, excess body condition loss which means cows will remain in negative energy balance longer and therefore fertility will be prejudiced.
Feed a balance of fats the ideal fatty acid supplement will contain a blend of fatty acids. It will have low levels of C16 to reduce the impact on body condition. It will contain C18:1 Oleic acid which helps improve the digestibility of all fatty acids in the diet, making more energy available and reducing body condition loss. It also encourages the production of glucose, essential to get cows cycling. Finally, early lactation cows need a supply of omega 3’s, ideally EPA and DHA fatty acids, to boost the immune system, improve egg quality and reduce early embryo losses. “UFAC has been pioneering the development of products with balanced fatty acids to meet specific needs of dairy cows for many years such as Dynalac, Omega 3 supplement and Omega Cream.”
Welcome from Robert Jones, MD
The difficult spring has had a positive effect on milk prices, with many processors increasing contract prices to reflect the drop in supply due to the non-existent spring flush. What this proves to me is the volatile nature of milk pricing. In the last three issues of Feed 4 Thought we have talked high prices, low prices and are now back on high prices again. The only thing we can be sure of is that this volatility will continue, although we don’t know the rate or extent. The challenge is how to manage your business in the light of unpredictable price swings? The keys are that irrespective of the base milk price, to maximise income by achieving all bonuses and to control costs. A successful business, no matter what sector is operates in will understand its costs and focus on cost-efficiency. When product price is high they will be in a position to build reserves and invest. When prices decline they will be able to survive, if at a more modest level. Cost-efficiency is not about cutting costs. It is about the right inputs used effectively to drive efficient production. In dairy farming this means dairy cows, producing high yields with optimum milk quality, cows getting back in calf to ensure future production potential and to keeping cows healthy, avoiding the hidden losses associated with mastitis, lameness and infertility. Our team is here to help deliver efficient and effective diets and we will be delighted to offer a second opinion on your rations.
Wrong fat supplementation can reduce butterfat – milk revenue
Optimising milk quality is essential if milk prices are to be maximised. UFAC UK Technical Manager Joe Magadi warns that feeding an inappropriate source of fatty acids in an attempt to boost overall energy intakes can have a negative effect on butterfat production. He says feeding oils and fats to dairy cows increases energy intake and performance. At the same time, however, depending on the form they are fed, oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) can cause milk fat depression
“Fish oil has been a popular source of omega 3 fatty acids for many years. It can benefit the cow and the farmer in many ways including increasing energy intakes enhancing cow health and fertility and so improving margins. But, to realise these benefits it is important that fish oil is delivered in a rumen-inert form which means they can bypass the rumen and be digested in the small intestine. Many products on the market are not adequately rumen protected.” Joe explains that fish oil is particularly high in PUFA and when fed in a non rumen inert form can actually depress butterfat
“PUFA are toxic to the rumen bacteria responsible for fibre fermentation. Digestion of fish oil in the rumen leads to the formation of milk fatdepressing bio-active products arising from a process called biohydrogenation. These bio-active metabolites commonly referred to as trans fats such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) suppress the activity of the key enzymes involved in milk fat production in the udder. “In addition, oils that are not rumeninert tend to coat forages, making them inaccessible to cellulolytic bacteria. This slows down fibre digestion, reduces feed intake and decreases milk production. “Low fibre digestion also results in the rumen acetate:propionate ratio being reduced. This starves the udder of acetate which is the main building block of milk fat. Joe says it is widely reported that feeding moderate quantities of unprotected or bioactive oils tends to decrease butterfat by up to 1% unit. Furthermore, if fish oil is not fed in a rumen-inert form, the omega 3 fatty acids which can have a direct effect on reproductive performance and health will be less effectively utilised due to being altered by the metabolic processes in the rumen. Making fish oil rumen –inert allows the cow to derive all the benefits while reducing the risk of butterfat depression. UFAC UK has developed a specialised technique for producing slow release rumen-inert fat supplements to maximise their effectiveness in the cow. The range includes Omega 3 Supplement and Dynalac which provide farmers with the only form of essential omega 3 fatty acids proven not to cause milk fat depression.
How are your fresh calvers really performing?
Getting fresh cows settled into lactation is a high priority but how do you decide how well they are doing and what actions may need to be taken to improve performance? Here, UFAC UKs Mark Townsend considers how milk records can unlock the key to a more productive lactation. We expect cows to do a lot in the period immediately after calving. We want them to move from a transition cow on to a milking cow diet, to stop losing weight and be in a positive energy balance, ideally by 30 days in milk. All this, while producing high yields of milk with good compositional quality and getting ready to breed; In short we want them to hit the ground running. We have often relied on measures like milk yield results and an objective view of whether they are losing weight or not as out best guide. But now, taking a look at milk records data at the first two recordings can shine a spotlight on how well they are really doing and allow action to be taken to correct any problems. In particular we can gain a lot of information by looking at the fatty acid breakdown of the butterfat as they are an indication of what is happening in the cow. Working with customers we look at three main areas, all of which are reported by both NMR and CIS.
Mono-unsaturated fats in milk The presence of high levels of monounsaturated fats can suggest a cow is losing too much body fat. Anything above 30% of milk fat as monounsaturates is an indicator that body weight loss is an issue. Because cows carry large amount of fat in the body cavity which can be mobilised, they can be losing weight without actually losing condition which is why this test is a more accurate guide. The other area to look at is levels of C18:1 oleic acid in the milk. Levels above 22-25% suggest a real problem. This is one of the first fats mobilised and it is found in large quantities in the foot pad. If cows are mobilising C18:1 they will be predisposed to lameness, particularly solar ulcers. Once lame feed intakes and fertility will be at risk. If high mono-unsaturates are a problem we look at the energy density in the diet and monitor intakes as it is clear cows haven’t migrated onto the milking cow diet effectively. We would also check they have adequate feed space – at least 75cm per cow for fresh calvers. Short chain fatty acids These are the fatty acids produced in the rumen and give us a good indication of how the rumen is performing.
They need to be greater than 10% and anything lower points to problems with rumen function and how well cows are making the change from the transition to milking cow diet. Where we see low short chain fatty acid levels it is time to take a close look at the diet and particularly whether cows are getting sufficient structural effective fibre to support rumen function. It might be that the diet needs more effective fibre or that cows are sorting the diet, two things we can confirm by sieving the diet. Diet sorting, as well as reducing fibre intakes can also lead to too much starch in the diet which can upset the balance of rumen fermentation. Lactose Often seen as the poor relation of milk solids, lactose can tell us a lot about the energy status of the cow and particularly the levels of glucogenic energy. Glucose is essential for milk production and lactose levels below 4.5% indicate that cows may be short of glucogenic energy, in which case we would look closely at feed access and also the balance of energy sources in the diet. By looking at milk records in a bit more depth, you will be able to get cows settled into lactation and set for a more profitable lactation.
Meet cow’s needs for amino acid to drive milk protein
Ensuring fresh calved cows have an adequate supply of essential amino acids is vital if cows are to produce milk with high milk protein content to maximise milk price, as UFAC UK’s Northern Business Manager, David Bonsall explains. All protein is made up of amino acids and cows have a requirement for each of the 22 amino acids, eight of which are identified as essential amino acids. Protein is used by the cow for the production of milk and also for muscle regeneration. If a cow is short of an essential amino acid she will not perform to her potential. During the period of negative energy balance when the main driver is milk yield, if the cow is short of amino acids she will mobilise muscle and reduce milk protein content to support yield. Later in lactation the cow will divert available supplies away from milk protein to maintaining herself and for muscle regeneration, leading to poorer milk quality and lower milk prices. So maintaining a balanced and adequate amino acid supply is a priority for high genetic merit cows. Healthy rumen The cow derives protein, and therefore her supply of amino acids, from two sources which together make up her metabolisable protein supply. Microbial protein, produced by the microflora in the rumen makes up around 70% of metabolisable protein with the remainder coming from the diet as bypass protein which passes through the rumen to be absorbed in the intestine. Microbial protein is actually a very efficient source of amino acids and can provide up to 60-85% of the amino acids that reach the small intestine.
The balance of amino acids in microbial protein is very close to the amino acid profile of milk protein so the first step in ensuring an optimum supply of amino acids is to maintain an efficient rumen, reducing the risk of acidosis while providing sufficient energy. Rumeninert fatty acid supplements are a good way to help achieve this. The balance of amino acid requirements need to be supplied as bypass protein in the diet. The problem is that many of the common ingredients in dairy cow diets can be low in essential amino acids with a poorer and less balanced supply, putting cows at risk of a shortage of the essential amino acids. Essential amino acid supply Rather than focussing on the protein content in the diet and the metabolisable protein supplied to the cow, farmers and nutritionists should pay close attention to essential amino acid supply. The new generation of rationing programmes like NutriOpt Dairy allow more detail on essential amino acid supply, helping to ensure supply is adequate to
meet requirements and support the production of high value milk. It will often be economic to include ingredients which are high in specific essential amino acids to help ensure a balanced supply. UFAC Promega Plus is an ideal protein supplement for fresh calved cows. It provides the supply of quality DUP required to support efficient milk production along with essential Omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA from marine oils. Most importantly it contains additional methionine to ensure requirements for this essential amino acid are met. Paying closer attention to amino acid supply will help ensure cows produce to their potential and that milk protein, and therefore price are optimized.