Feed 4 Thought Issue 17

Introducing Utopia, the next generation unique dairy cow supplement

downloadsymbolClick here to download feed 4 thought Issue 17 in PDF


Getting transition and early lactation cows off to the best start requires close attention to their nutritional requirements, and the same goes for high yielders in the opinion of Mike Chown from UFAC. “We expect a transition cow to achieve an enormous amount in a very short time,” he suggests. “They have got to safely deliver a calf and recover from the stresses this entails. Then we expect them to start eating significantly more, go from zero milk production to producing a significant volume of milk with good solids all within a short time frame. We ask them to do all of this without suffering any metabolic disorders along the way. “The challenges for high yielders are just as large. Maintaining high yields and milk quality, while not losing body weight, getting back in calf and staying healthy. “The least we can do is make sure the diet is giving them all the help it can. Effective transition is about minimising stress while providing a fine-tuned mix of nutrients. And this is why we have developed Utopia, a unique supplement to help improve health, productivity and fertility in transition and high yielding cows by focusing on four key areas.

Energy supply

Early lactation cows have a high demand for glucose which accounts for 70% of their energy needs. Glucose drives milk production and is also vital as the fuel for the immune system in the event of a disease challenge. Utopia contains rumen-inert glycerine, the most efficient source for glucose production by the liver. It also features a balance of highly digestible rumen-inert fatty acids to boost energy density, in particular C18:1Oleic acid to help reduce insulin resistance and body condition loss. Choline helps keep the liver healthy and efficient to reduce the risk of ketosis.

Strong immune system

The ability to fight infections quickly and efficiently during transition is vital so Utopia contains high levels of vitamin E and selenium to help reduce oxidative stress and reduce the consequence of infection. Omega 3 EPA and DHA from the most effective marine sources also strengthen the overall immune response. With a strong immune system less glucose is diverted from milk production to fighting infection.

Better fertility

EPA and DHA also play a crucial role in fertility, increasing the size and quality of eggs, leading to improved conception rates and reduced early embryonic deaths.

Balancing amino acids
Cows need a supply of many essential amino acids and the performance of everything is determined by the first amino acid to be limiting. If any amino acid is limiting the consequence is yield depression, reduced milk protein and compromised fertility. In most diets this is methionine so Utopia supplies it in a highly effective rumen-inert form. Utopia will help cows transition effectively, doing all that is expected of them while making high yielding cows better equipped for the challenges they face.



Welcome from Managing Director Robert Jones

In times of uncertainty, I am reminded that successful managers focus their efforts on the things they can influence rather than the things that concern them. How does this affect dairy farming? In simple terms, there is not a lot you can do about the milk price or global commodity markets. They may concern you, but you can’t influence them. What you can influence is how efficiently you feed your cows and produce milk, and in so doing take more control of costs. Key to this is using all the data you can to understand what is happening in your herd. Start by getting regular analysis of all your forages so you know the true value of the base of your ration. Then look at what the cows are telling you about how the diet is performing. Milk records and the new fatty acid profiling can give a real insight into performance, particularly of transition cows while cow signals can give practical pointers about rumen health as well as the physical conditions the cows are kept in. Is feed space, for example, holding back efficiency? Then use a comprehensive rationing system like NutriOpt dairy to build a diet to exploit the value of forages while also correcting any imbalances thrown up by the records. With proper planning and attention to detail, it will be possible to formulate cost effective diets to support high levels of efficient production. Our team will be happy to assess your diets for you.

Help stop your cows being radiators on hot days

Heat stress can be a real drain on dairy cow performance, but a simple change to the diet can make a big difference to how well cows cope with hot and humid conditions as UFAC’s Mike Chown explains. Cows begin to suffer symptoms of heat stress as soon as temperatures exceed 19°C (66°F), which means that virtually every day of the grazing season they will be affected. High humidity makes the effects of heat stress worse. Heat stress is a real problem for cows because the rumen is effectively a 200 litre radiator. It is a huge internal generator of heat due to the fermentation of forages and cereals. This process is continuous and goes on every day of the year and, unlike us, they can’t turn the central heating off!

As soon as cows begin to suffer from heat stress there is a cascade effect which leads to reduced production, lower milk fat and a risk of poorer fertility. They become less active and have increased respiration rates. How often do we see cows standing up, sheltering under trees and hedges trying to keep cool? The first thing to ensure is the adequate supply of fresh clean water. As a consequence of increased respiration and evaporation, their water requirements can increase by 40%. Adding water to the TMR is a practical option. In periods of heat stress DMI can reduce by up to 30%, increasing the acidosis risk as the concentrate to fibre ratio increases. One quick and simple action is to change the energy sources in the diet, switching away from energy sources which are fermented in the rumen. While it is important to maintain forage intakes to promote good rumen health and support butterfats, it is possible to replace rumen fermented carbohydrates like cereals with an unfermentable energy source, especially rumen-inert fatty acids and glycerine. Highly digestible rumen-inert fats like Supa-Cream have a balanced fatty acid profile and are digested in the small intestines with no heat being produced. In addition, they have at least 2.5 times the energy content of cereals meaning they can boost the energy content of the overall diet, even if dry mater intakes are reduced. Rumen-inert fats also help reduce the risk of SARA and acidosis. With 70% of a cow’s energy coming from glucose, it is important to ensure the diet contains sufficient levels of the precursors for glucose production. Glyco-Buff provides rumen-inert glycerine, an efficient source of glucose which won’t contribute to heat, plus a buffer which is essential as buffers naturally produced by cows reduce significantly due to decreased rumination.

Switching energy sources will help your cows better cope with heat stress and minimise effects on yields, milk quality and health. Another concern is that heat stress increases the risk of oxidative stress and can cause dysfunctional inflammatory responses, both of which may reduce fertility. Research has shown there is a steeper decline in fertility in the summer compared with the winter. One way to overcome the negative effects of stress on inflammatory responses is supplementing diets with marine sources of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Fed in the breeding period, particularly during warm weather they have a stimulatory effect on pregnancy. To reduce oxidative stress ensure rations supply enough of these fatty acids along with Vitamin E and organic selenium.


Increasing beef throughput

UFAC’s David Bonsall says adding fatty acids to the diets of rearing and finishing beef cattle can increase returns and boost unit throughput by around 9%. Returns from beef fattening depend on hitting target specifications for weight and fat class, and achieving them as soon as possible while controlling feed costs. Faster finishing saves on bedding, vet and medicine and other costs per animal. Most importantly it allows an increased throughput with more finished animals sold per year. Many rearing and finishing diets based on cereals contain less oil than is recommended. Rearing diets will often be around 2.5% oil while the recommendation is up to 3.0%. For finishing cattle typical diets are c. 2.5% oil but the recommendation is up to 6% oil. Increasing oil content to the maximum can bring major benefits. In a typical rearing diet, the target oil level can be achieved by replacing 0.3kg of barley with 0.3kg/head/day of UFAC Megabeef. This increases the energy from 11.6 MJ/kgDM to 12.1 MJ/kgDM, meaning an animal growing from 80-350kg will hit the end weight 25 days sooner. In fattening diets, the target oil content is achieved by swapping 0.5kg/head/day of barley for 0.5kg of Megabeef, boosting the energy density by 0.6MJ/kgDM. Cattle starting at 350kg will hit 640kg 12 days sooner than cattle on an unsupplemented diet. Megabeef is a unique blend of specially selected rumen-inert fatty acids which optimises oil content of beef rearing and finishing diets, including the essential C18:2, C18:3, plus C18:1, EPA and DHA, all of which mean cattle will have an improved FCE and DLWG.
If an animal is fed Megabeef from 80kg LWT through to finish, it will finish round 37 days faster compared to a standard barley based ration. It will also achieve an enhanced carcass grade, so improving price/kg. Economics are what count Megabeef is more expensive than barley and over the 460 day rearing and finishing period, replacing some barley with Megabeef will increase fed costs by around £9/head. However, the better grading will increase carcase price by around £19, giving £10 increased margin per head. But the big benefit is that saving 37 days per animal will allow an extra 9% of animal to be finished per year, increasing total returns and returns per space in the building. So making sure your cattle are fed the optimum oil levels, with specific fatty acids in the diet, is one way to significantly improve productivity and returns.


Fatty acids crucial for robot success

Ensuring outside rations are balanced with the optimum sources of fatty acids will help improve performance in robotic milking systems according to Mark Townsend from UFAC. The number of herds being milked through robots in the UK continues to grow as farmers look for ways to increase productivity. One of the keys to optimising the number of visits through the robot is to reduce the M+ value of the outside diet, allowing cows more access to concentrates fed during milking to encourage them to visit the robot. In most robotically milked herds, high yielding cows may be getting around 12kg concentrates through the robot, meaning the outside diet still need to be formulated to M+20 to M+25 litres. It is vital it is correctly balanced to help provide the total daily requirements of the cows, while balancing any deficiencies in the concentrates fed through the robot, particularly fatty acids and amino acids.
The following are points to consider:
• As dairy compounds contain high levels of rumen fermentable carbohydrates it is important to watch levels in the outside ration to help prevent increased incidence of SARA. Including rumen-inert fatty acids will help boost energy levels while improving rumen health.
• Cows have a requirement for the essential fatty acid C18:3 Linolenic acid which is used in the production of long chain omega 3 fatty acids. There is very little in dairy compounds so additional supplementation is required.
• Dairy compounds are generally low in the essential omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids, in particular EPA and DHA which come from marine oil, play a crucial role in keeping the cow healthy and fertile.
• Also, we know C18:1 Oleic is critical for FCE, preventing insulin resistance and maintaining body condition, so making sure the outside diet is supplemented with this fatty acid is crucial.
• Producing a well-balanced outside ration using a supplement such as Dynalac with its content of the essential fatty acids can be an important part in a successful robot milking strategy.

Feed balanced fatty acids for efficient healthy cows

Fatty acids play a vital role in making cows as efficient as possible, maximising cost effective production while keeping them healthy and fertile. But as UFAC’s Joe Magadi explains, all fatty acids are not the same and it is crucial to provide the ones your cows need. Fatty acids are used in different ways by the cow. We need to feed the right fats in the right form to deliver the results. Get it wrong and feed costs will increase with no improvement in performance.

Rumen health
The rumen is king and we must do all we can to keep it healthy as it is the engine of performance, providing the nutrients for milk yield and compositional quality. We need to keep it digesting fibre effectively, making full use of forages which make up over 60% of total dry matter intakes. There is no direct fatty acid digestion in the rumen. However, fatty acids can be degraded in the rumen and this is not a good thing. When they are degraded, rumen fibre fermentation is compromised, resulting in reduced rumen efficiency leading to depressed forage intakes and lower production from forage. Once fatty acids have passed through the rumen, they need to be absorbed quickly. C16:0 fatty acid is mainly utilised in the udder, and as such supplies little energy for maintenance. If only C16:0 is fed, there is a real danger that the effective energy in the diet will be over-estimated, meaning the cow will be short of energy. Furthermore, C16:0 fatty acids do not supply any of the essential fatty acids which are required by every cell in the body. We see the essential fatty acids as C18:1 (Oleic), C18:2(Linoleic), C18:3 (Linolenic), C20:5(EPA) and C22:6 9 (DHA). These help reduce insulin resistance and boost the immune and reproductive systems while supplying energy to help reduce the impact of negative energy balance, helping keep cows more fertile, healthy and productive.

Boosting butterfats
A big benefit of getting the fatty acid balance right is improved butterfats. Up to 69% of butterfat is saturated fats which primarily come directly from the diet. On average at least 25% of butterfat is a direct result of VFAs in the rumen, which means that dietary fats contribute significantly to butterfat production. The fatty acid breakdown of butterfat is remarkably consistent. Typically around 32% of butterfat will be C16:0, 25% will be short chain fatty acids, while 11% will be C18 saturated fatty acids. About 31% will be unsaturated fatty acids. If the diet is short of rumen-inert C18 and unsaturated fatty acids, feeding C16:0 alone will not increase butterfat yields as it can only ever be c.35% of the butterfat produced.

Practical implications
Fatty acids are a crucial component indiets, helping increase energy intakes to make the best use of forage, keep cows healthy, support milk prices and margins. You need to feed the balance of fatty acids that cows require at different stages of lactation and that can be utilised most effectively. A failure to do so can lead to a disappointing response and reduced margins, so consider the following points for an effective ration:
1. Focus on rumen health. Without an effective rumen, dietary fatty acids will not have the optimal effect. They are not a band-aid for an ineffective base diet.
2. Ensure all fatty acids fed are rumen-inert so they do not disrupt fibre digestion.
3. Feed a balanced blend of fatty acids. Single C16:0 products will not deliver the most effective response.
4. Ensure you supply the essential C18 fatty acids which have an effect in all the systems of the cow. A shortage can cause significant problems.
5. Add EPA and DHA from marine sources to help improve overall fertility and herd health, boosting the immune system.

The UFAC range contains products balanced for different systems. For early lactation cows consider Utopia or Dynalac. If you run high and low yield groups then a strategy of Dynalac to the high group and Omega Cream to low yielders will meet all requirements. If cows are run as one milking group, then Supa-Cream fits the bill.


downloadsymbolClick here to download feed 4 thought Issue 17 in PDF