Feed essential oils to reduce foot ulcer risk (Feed 4 Thought issue 5)
Making sure cows receive enough essential fatty acids can help reduce the losses associated with sole ulcers, according to Mark Townsend from UFAC UK. “Speaking at a UFAC seminar Professor John Huxley from Nottingham University explained there is evidence that lameness risks increase when cows are in negative energy balance,” he explains. “When cows lose condition, the first fat store they mobilise is from the digital cushion. This is the essential cushion of fat that sits just above the sole of the foot, starting near the heel and running forward to the toe and acts as a shock absorber. As cows lose body condition, the fat pad cushion ‘deflates’ which increases the likelihood of sole bruising (haemorrhaging) and sole ulcers. Each case of sole ulcers costs £325 when consequences including lower yields, reduced fertility and a greater risk of culling are added to treatment costs. The average incidence is six cases per 100 cows making the annual cost over £2000 per 100 cows. “Lameness in fresh calvers is a particular problem as once a cow starts to go lame it becomes painful to stand up, meaning she will eat less which can make condition loss worse. The aim must be to reduce negative energy balance and also to feed the correct energy sources. “The reason the foot pad suffers first is that it is high in unsaturated C18:1 fat which the cow specifically needs as a rapidly available energy source. “Feeding supplements high in C18:1 and the essential fatty acids, particularly C18:2 and C18:3, not only replaces the fats used by the cow, they also increase total energy so helping to reduce negative energy balance. “Adding Dynalac or Omega Cream to the diet will give the cows the energy they require while helping to maintain an effective foot pad to improve mobility and increase dry matter intakes.”
Welcome from Robert Jones, MD
Healthy cows will be essential to control costs in a volatile market. All the market signals point to continued milk price volatility. When prices increase again as they will, there is no guarantee they will stay higher. We all have to learn to work in an industry where large price swings become the norm. The challenge is to shape your business to allow you to become resilient, able to survive the troughs and exploit the peaks. This can mean making the most of your contract in terms of seasonality and, where appropriate, compositional quality. We are starting to see contracts where payments will reflect not just the amount of butterfat but also the composition of that fat. We are working to understand how diet can influence this. It will also mean keeping cows healthy, increasing production efficiency and reducing the losses and costs associated with poor fertility and high levels of lameness. Key to this is feeding the right diet to supply the nutrients required while keeping the rumen healthy and productive. Science and research tells us our products can help you achieve this.
Feed optimum fats and oils for efficient healthy cows
Fats and oils have a vital role to play this winter to help cows be as efficient as possible: maximising cost-effective production while keeping them healthy and fertile. But, as independent nutritionist Dr Brian Vernon explains, all fats are not the same and it is crucial to provide the fats your cow needs: more specifically the right balance of individual fatty acids. Fats and oils are an efficient and effective source of energy for dairy cows that will help to meet the energy demands for today’s higher yielding animals and, for example, reducing the consequences of negative energy balance (NEB) If we can limit NEB we will increase milk production while also improving fertility thereby reducing the costs of not getting cows back into calf quickly. In addition, dietary fats/oils have a significant impact on milk quality, helping to reduce the impact of falling milk prices. It is important, however, to understand that fats 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, the last thing any dairy farmer wants. The first point, we all know, is that the rumen is king. We must do our utmost to keep it healthy, as this engine impacts on maintenance, fertility, NEB, milk yield and compositional quality. We need to maximise fibre fermentation to make full use of forages, our cheapest component in diets, as it usually constitutes over 60% of total dry matter intake.
Rumen health NDF fermentation is important for rumen health and efficiency. More recent research data indicates that in high yielding dairy cows VFAs from NDF fermentation only provide approx. 25% of milk fat production. Thus, added fats are vital to balance any shortfalls in energy supply. Unfortunately, fats can be degraded in the rumen and this is not a good thing. This degradation will readily compromise rumen fibre fermentation, leading to reduced rumen efficiency, depressed forage intakes and lower production from the total diet. To maintain an effective rumen, you must ensure that the added fats are rumen inert: i.e. they pass through the rumen and remain undegraded. Post rumen, the key is to ensure that the right balance of fatty acids is available for efficient use by the cow: this becomes more critical as milk yield increases.
Energy absorption Fats/fatty acids are digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Fatty acids, however, are not digested at the same rate. Saturated fatty acids have a digestibility approximately half that of unsaturated fatty acids (99%). To optimise the digestion of fats, your cows require a balanced mixture of these fatty acids. The absorption of a balanced fatty acid mixture is vital as cows use energy for maintenance first, followed by milk production, immunity and then other demands. Imbalance this supply and cows will, for example, be in NEB much longer. C16 fats are interesting in that their fatty acids go straight to the udder: hence higher milk fat. This results in a metabolic shortfall in energy supply and balance. The cow now breaks down body tissues to rebalance her needs, increasing NEB and body condition loss. Thus, one outcome is that the energy of the total diet has been over-estimated. Furthermore, this ‘maintenance first’ requires the cow to consume essential unsaturated fatty acids: C18:1 (oleic), C18:2 (linoleic) and C18:3 (linolenic). These are critical for controlling NEB and assisting the immunity/health status of the cow. C16 fats do not supply these essential fatty acids. In addition, the inclusion of marine oils supplying the omega 3 oils DHA and EPA can help improve fertility and health.
Boosting butterfat In times of downward price pressure, a key advantage of feeding additional by-pass fats is to increase butterfat. Up to 69% of the fats in milk are saturated fatty acids and these primarily come from the diet, with a low level from NDF fermentation. Since approx. 25% of butterfat comes from rumen VFA production, then it is essential to provide dietary fats to maximise butterfat production. The fatty acid profile of butterfat is relatively consistent.
• 25% short chain fatty acids
• 30% C16:0 saturated fatty acid
• 11% C18:0 saturated fatty acid
• 33% unsaturated fatty acids
This profile further highlights the need for a balanced supply of fatty acids. But, C16 fats/fatty acids are directed to the udder. To increase milk butterfat therefore requires the other fatty acids as well. Under supply of C18:0 and the other unsaturated fatty acids, with ‘maintenance first’, means feeding C16 fats alone will not increase butterfat yields as C16:0 only represents 30% of the butterfat.
What does this all mean in practice?
In simple terms, fats have the potential to be an exceedingly valuable component in your diets this winter: to help increase energy intakes thereby making the best use of forage and support milk prices/margins. The benefits are medium and long term: improving production and fertility now plus the reductions in NEB and body condition loss will set the cow up right for her next lactation. But, remember that all fats are not the same. You need to feed a balance mixture of fatty acids that can be effectively utilised by the cow in all stages of lactation and pregnancy. The failure to do so can lead to a disappointing response and reduced margins. M
My advice would be: be:
• Focus on rumen health first: without this, added dietary fats will not give you the best results. Fats are not a ‘band-aid’ for an ineffective base diet.
• Ensure any added fat is rumen inert so as not to disrupt fibre fermentation
• Feed a blend of fats. Single C16 products do not deliver the most effective metabolic response
• Ensure that you supply the essential C18 unsaturated fatty acids: they are vital components in all of the cow’s metabolic systems and any shortage will lead to significant problems.
• Add DHA and EPA, from marine sources, to help improve overall fertility and herd health as well as boosting the immune system.
Focus on energy sources to drive efficient milk production
Glucogenic energy is set to become a key measure in effective dairy diet formulation as Mike Chown from UFAC UK explains. “New research means we have a better understanding of how cows use the energy in the diet and produced in the rumen and this is great news for dairy farmers looking to drive efficient and economic milk production,” Mike comments. “Diets capable of efficient milk production need adequate levels of what is called glucogenic energy, which is a term all farmers need to become familiar with.” He explains that glucogenic energy is the energy that drives milk production. “In simple terms, glucogenic energy sources produce propionate in the rumen. This is a major precursor of glucose which in turn is required for lactose production. Lactose is vital for milk yields as it is what draws water into the udder from the blood stream. The more glucose you have, the more lactose is produced and the better cows will milk. “If we do not meet the requirement for glucogenic energy, cows will use protein as an energy source which is inefficient and expensive. Alternatively they will mobilise body fat as a source of glycerol.” The key diet parameter is the proportion of the total energy in the diet that is glucogenic energy. Mike explains that all leading rationing systems will now report the glucogenic energy ratio. “You are looking for a value of around 11. Ask your nutritionist what the figure is for your diet. Anything less than 11 suggests a shortage of glucogenic energy. Another check is to look at milk lactose data on milk records. A milk lactose content less than 4.6% suggests cows are short in glucogenic energy.” If levels are low, Mike says the key is to increase the components in the diet which produce glucose but it is essential to do so while not disrupting rumen health. “Many propionate and glucose sources are fermented quickly and can potentially lead to an increased acidosis risk. Glycerol can be an efficient source of glucogenic energy provided it is fed in a rumen-inert non-liquid form such as UFAC Glycerene or Glyco-Buf which are effective sources of glucogenic energy which do not upset rumen fermentation. “Focussing on the glucogenic energy levels in the diet could have a significant effect on the economics of milk production this year.”
Fish oils for fertility efficiency
Feeding rumeninert fish oils is the most effective way to supply the readily available omega 3 oils cows require for better fertility as David Turnbull from UFAC UK describes. The omega 3 oils DHA and EPA are proven to increase fertility because they increase the production of progesterone, the hormone responsible for embryo implantation.
This increases the number of embryos that successfully implant, reducing embryo loss, increasing the number of cows getting in calf and in so doing reducing semen costs. By increasing progesterone levels they also encourage stronger bulling behaviour, making heat detection more effective. “Few feed ingredients contain naturally high levels of DHA and EPA,” David explains. “On most diets cows have to convert C18:3 fats to omega 3s which is a wasteful process. It uses up valuable energy and is only up to 25% efficient, meaning many cows are deficient in DHA and EPA which can explain poor fertility performance. “The best and most economic response is achieved by feeding rumen-inert fish oils which, unlike plant sources such as linseed, are naturally high in DHA and EPA meaning you are feeding cows the marine-derived omega-3s they need, helping deliver better fertility and more pregnancies as fishmeal used to.”