Ensure you are feeding the correct fat this winter (Feed 4 Thought issue 3)
Many dairy farmers are considering using fats in diets this winter to help complement lower energy grass silages and to potentially boost butterfat percent. Now new research confirms the choice of fat can have a significant effect of how successful these strategies will be as Mike Chown of UFAC UK explains. “To be effective in dairy diets fats have to pass through the rumen to be absorbed in the intestine,” Mike comments. “This is termed being ‘rumen inert’, and the more inert the product is the better and fats vary considerably in this regard.” Mike explains that factors such as melting point and particle size will impact on how well fats are used and now new UK research shows that fats based on vegetable and marine oils have a significant nutritional advantage over more traditional calcium soap products In the research at the University of Reading CEDAR, cows were fed different fat products and the rate at which the products left the rumen was recorded. “If a fat moves through the rumen quickly it means it is not being digested or broken down in the rumen. This means more will be available to the cow. Fast movement through the rumen is particularly important with high yielding cows expected to achieve high dry matter intakes.” In the trials UFAC Dynalac and Galaxy both performed better than calcium soaps, moving through the rumen more quickly and making more energy available to the cow. “This is a significant result as it confirms what we had always observed on farm,” Mike continues. “The unique method UFAC uses to protect our oils and fats delivers superior rumen protection and enhance their utilisation by the animal, which means more effective cows, and potentially higher margins and better butterfats.”
Welcome from Robert Jones, MD (Feed 4 Thought issue 3)
It looks like being a challenging winter for many dairy farmers. We have seen a period of increased milk price volatility and current prices are well below
the prices being paid last year. At the same time the difficult spring and early summer mean that there is some variable grass silage to feed and rationing cows may be less straight forward as a result. On the positive side, many feed prices are lower than last year but this is not a green light to just feed more cereal-based concentrate, because the combination of rapidly fermented cereals and this year’s silage could greatly increase the risk of acidosis and reduced performance. Successful rations this winter will ensure that the diet contains sufficient total energy but in a form that promotes good rumen health. This means there is a real place for fat supplements based on rumeninert essential fatty acids in a highly digestible form such as Dynalac and Omega Cream. Although milk prices are down, they are still not as low as they were a few years ago. Farmers who feed smarter can still expect to make reasonable margins.
Fresh cow management changes reduce ketosis risk (Feed 4 Thought issue 3)
Fine tuning management with a particular focus on the fresh calved group is paying dividends for Tim Miller from Crib House Farm, Stalbridge in Dorset. Tim and his son Dan run a herd of 280 all year round calving, twice daily milked Holsteins which are averaging 11,000 litres with a calving interval of 392 days. The cows, until five months ago were one group, grazing spring and summer and being buffer fed after each milking. There is also a fresh calved group of 19 cows. They are all housed in a building designed and built by Tim and Dan. The cows are TMR fed on a diet based on grass and maize silage, a blend, molasses, whole crop and straw. The diet is formulated by Robbie Taylor of Velcourt who keeps a close eye on performance. Milk yield has been improving steadily since Robbie has been feeding the cows from 8,500 to the present 11,000 litres/cow. Tim is quick to highlight the contribution of herdsman Rob Strawbridge who has been on the farm for nearly five years. “Since Rob has been with us 40 days has been taken off the calving interval” Tim says “he is really focussed on getting the cows back in calf, tail painting cows weekly and doing most of the A.I. regularly achieving a 40% conception rate”. Dry cows are run as far off dry and transition groups and the aim is that they spend three weeks in the transition group. When they calve down they will spend up to 21 days in a fresh calved group.
Ketone testing – One of the key factors determining when cows move out of the fresh calved group is negative energy balance (NEB). Cows need to be eating well and to help boost immediate energy supply, Tim and Dan had been feeding propylene glycol. To monitor NEB, Tim purchased a cow side ketone (BHB) test kit on Ebay three years ago and had been testing any cows that were off colour. Blood is drawn from the tail head and can be tested in a matter of seconds with the target being a BHB reading lower than 1.0. “We used to have as many as 10 cows with levels above the target,” Tim continues. “Then Andrew Jones from Pearce Seeds visited the farm with Mike Chown from UFAC. Coincidentally we had just run out of propylene glycol and Dan comments that since we had stopped including it, the cows were eating more TMR. Mike Chown explains that propylene glycol can depress dry matter intakes and suggested we replaced it with UFAC Glycerene.” Glycerene is a unique glycerol product developed to help optimise early lactation and transition performance by looking after the liver in particular. It is a highly palatable free flowing meal, designed to help optimise performance by supplying essential nutrients direct to the liver so increasing glucose available to the cow. It reduces the risk of fatty livers and the levels of BHBs in the blood because it improves the efficiency of fat absorption so reducing the amount of body fat that needs to be mobilised. Being rumen-inert it passes through to the liver so more is available to the cow than from unprotected liquid glycerol supplements and so give a more constant energy supply.
Immediate effect – In August this year, Tim started feeding Glycerene at a rate of 0.5kg/cow incorporated into the transition group TMR and began BHB testing every cow in the fresh group weekly. “In the first week after adding it we only had one cow with raised BHB levels with the rest consistently below 1.0. Cows were also eating well with no sign of depressed intakes. On average we are seeing fewer than two cows a week with raised levels now.” Dan and Rob had been concerned that cows were being dried off carrying too much condition at around BCS 3.5 which he thinks was contributing to the risk of high BHBs, so he is making management changes to try and reduce condition. “We were feeding one TMR across the herd and as the herd can be averaging 35 litres per day, it is quite a potent mix aiming to give M+30 topped up with concentrate in the parlour. Consequently lower yielding cows were putting on too much weight.” To try to reduce weight gain, the herd is now split into high and low yielders with the highs fed for M+30 down the trough while lows are fed for M+20. While Tim says that splitting the herd has increased workloads, the plus side is that he does not now need to replace the mixer wagon due to smaller different mixes rather than two or three big mixes, the same, for the whole herd.
The low yielding group has also been out to graze in the late summer and Tim is confident that cows will dry off at a lower condition score. To limit condition increase in the far off dry group the diet had been detuned with a higher proportion of straw to maintain rumen fill but reduce energy intake. “We are starting to see the benefits of the changes with cows in more suitable condition, transitioning well and moving smoothly into the main herd” Tim concludes. UFAC Southern Business Manager Mark Townsend believes that good fresh cow management will be crucial during the current period of depressed milk prices. “With prices low and margins squeezed, it will be more important than ever to ensure cows get established into lactation quickly, achieving high dry matter intakes with minimal metabolic problems which will reduce production, increase costs and delay rebreeding. “Glycerene can help reduce the rate and extent of NEB and get cows producing efficiently more quickly,” he comments.
Feed smarter to make most of silage (Feed 4 Thought issue 3)
This winter many dairy farmers are faced with poor quality, variable silage. UFAC’s David Turnbull considers the options for making best use of it. There is a considerable variation in silage this year. We are seeing crops with higher acid loading, giving an increased risk of acidosis. Others have high Dry Matter and NDF which can reduce DMI and hence total energy supply. Furthermore, cows will require more energy anyway to metabolise the supply of excess rumen degradable protein. In short, cows may well be energy deficient. The biggest challenge facing dairy farmers this winter will be choosing the most cost-effective supplements to maximise forage utilisation and maintain good rumen health. This will require careful choice of concentrates and supplements to ensure there is enough NDF in the diet. The options available are quite limited. In an attempt to increase DMI and ensure sufficient effective fibre to support adequate rumination, farmers may be tempted to offer larger quantities of dry forages such as straw but these are prone to sorting and are low in energy. With lower cereal prices this year it may be tempting to feed more to boost energy levels. However, this puts the cow at even greater risk of sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA).
Maximise DMI Feeding a fat supplement can increase energy intakes without compromising rumen health, and prices remain attractive, but it is important to choose carefully. An appropriate fat supplement for wet silage feeding conditions will be rumen-inert to minimise the risk of SARA, and not reduce overall DMI. It must be highly digestible in the lower gut. This limits the choice. Calcium soaps reduce diet palatability and DMI. Under low pH conditions typical when feeding wet silage, calcium soaps breakdown in the rumen releasing fatty acids that are toxic to fibre digesting rumen microbes. Hydrogenated fats including the C16 range of products have a high melting point, above 50°C, which makes them less soluble in the rumen and less digestible in the lower gut.
Proven on farm One proven option is Dynalac, a high ME (27 MJ/kg DM) dry fat supplement made from vegetable and marine oils which is highly digestible and specifically designed to balance wet silage-based dairy rations. It passes rapidly through the rumen into the lower gut minimising exposure to rumen fermentation. Further down the digestive tract, the fatty acids are readily digested and absorbed. Unlike other sources of fat, Dynalac supplies a unique blend of essential fatty acids with multiple metabolic functions. The inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids makes it particularly suitable for enhancing embryo survival and improving fertility. Choosing the right fat supplement can help increase total energy intakes while maintaining rumen health and margins.