Feed 4 Thought Issue 7

Think Value not price (Feed 4 Thought issue 7)

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UFAC-UK Sales Manager Mike Chown believes farmers need to change the way they assess how they select feed inputs this spring.I have spoken to a great many dairy farmers in the last three months and without exception the discussion turns to reducing feed costs and producing milk more cost effectively. My response is to say the way to do this is not to think price, but to think value. Rather than saying ‘I can save x pence if I cut something out’, ask yourself ‘What return will I get if I spend x pence, or how much do I risk losing if I cut something out and will the saving exceed the potential loss?’ When milk prices are low and margins tight, the emphasis has to be on feeding cows as well as we can sothey can perform to their optimum, not cutting corners and hoping they will perform OK. As farmers look to turn cows out, which can undoubtedly help reduce costs, we need to focus on what we want the cows to do to give us the best return. Think about what you are asking your cows to do and make sure you feed them accordingly. You want them to milk in a way that maximises the price achieved from your contract, a combination of good milk quality and hitting the profile. You also need to increase the prospects of keeping them on profile in the future which means getting back in calf. You want them to graze efficiently, maximising grazing hours and dry matter intakes which requires good foot health. Will you do this by cutting feed costs and feeding cheap feeds? I doubt it. The chances of achieving this level of performance will come from feeding the right feeds for your situation and working on return on investment not price. Fats are a good example. It you feed on the cheap, you won’t feed fats. If you feed for a return then the right fats have an essential place in diets especially as cows go to grass when maintaining milk quality, fertility and mobility can be a challenge.


Welcome from Robert Jones, MD

Time to focus on things you can influence. In times of uncertainty it pays to have a clear focus! No-one knows when milk prices will recover or by how much. So in the interim the key must be to focus on doing the best you can in the circumstances. Even though milk prices may not be great, there is scope in most contracts to influence the price received. Farmers need to focus on maximising the price received from their contract by improving milk quality and maximising seasonality. While maximising price, it is vital to control costs. At the heart of this will be increasing the contribution from forage which is the cheapest feed available. Second is to keep cows healthy, reducing the consequential losses due to poor reproductive performance, high levels of lameness and disrupted rumen health. Central to achieving all these goals is feeding the right products for your system. If you feed the wrong product you will just increase costs. Feed a product that really delivers what the cows need and you will see a return on investment resulting in healthier, more productive cows and higher margins. Focusing on return on investment rather than cost, is a strategy to help ride out low prices. Our team is here to help deliver efficient and effective diets and we will be delighted to offer a second opinion on your dairy rations.

Correct fat choice crucial for optimum performance 

Taking time to choose the best fat product for your systemwill have a big impact on performance, health, fertility and, most importantly margins this summer.
Whatever the system, dairy farmers will all want to achieve similar objectives this summer:
• They will want cows that produce
as much milk from forage as possible
• They will want to squeeze every last
drop of available income from the contract
• They will want cows to get in calf• They will want healthy cows which
do not lose excess body condition.
The order of priority will change but the general objectives will be very similar. One way to help ensure you achieve your priorities is to feed the correct fat supplement to the diet. Fats are an essential component ofall dairy cow diets but it is vital to understand that all fats are not the same. They differ in their composition and the effect they have in the cow, meaning it is possible to choose a fat best suited to your circumstances. Feed the right fat and you can expect a good return on investment. Feed the wrong fat and costs may exceed the return, and the cows will definitely suffer.

C16 is not the only fat
Many producers believe that a cow’s requirements for dietary fat can bemet simply by feeding a source of C16 fats. This is not the case. Cows need a blend of different fats for different roles.
C16 is usually associated with increasing butterfats, something that will be essential under many milk contracts this spring. Dietary C16 moves straight from the rumen to the udder and C16 contributes only up to 38% of the butterfat in milk. To maximise total butterfat percent, two others things have to happen. Firstly it is vital to maximise VFA production in the rumen as they account for another 30% of butterfat. Secondly, the diet must contain the range of fatty acids which directly make up the remaining third of butterfat but which the cow can not synthesise herself, mainly unsaturated fats of various chain lengths. Simply feeding more C16, which is poorly digested, will not necessarily boost butterfat and it can have negative effects. It provides no energy for maintenance and can consequently lead to increased body condition loss and an increased riskof lameness and poor fertility.
Think wise and select optimum fat blend
As fats are involved in many functions in the cow it is important to understand what you are looking for and to choose the fat supplement correctly. To illustrate this point we have chosen three common scenarios that will be found on dairy farms this summer. All the farms will be trying to achieve our key objectives, but for each the priorities and therefore optimum fat product will vary. In each case we will outline the benefits compared to using straight C16 fat or a calcium soap for a herd of 120 cows averaging 26 litres per day at 20ppl. Lameness levels are the national average of 33%, causing a 5% yield reduction in affected cows.

Scenario 1
An autumn calved herd where cows are in calf or herdswhere only in calf cows will be turned out to graze.

The objectives here will be to maximise value from the contract through good butterfat production.At the same time it will be importantto maintain mobility to make cows enthusiastic grazers and to improve production from forage and to ensure cows do not lose condition. The cows need a fat source which contains C18:1 fat. This is important because when cows lose condition they mobilise C18:1 from the footpad. This increases foot discomfort leading to lameness and therefore reduced grazing activity and less milk from forage. In addition, as overall concentrate feed rates will be cut back to encourage milk from grazing and to cut costs, cows will need supplementing with the essential fatty acids C18:2” and C18:3 which they can not synthesise themselves anddo need in the diet. UFAC Buttercup Extra would be the ideal supplement in this situation, providing the specific fats the cow requires including C18:1, C18:2, C18:3 along with a high level of C16:0, plus glycerine to increase overall fat digestibility.


Reduced lameness due to inclusion of C18:1 fat – 5% yield increase (1.3 litres per day) for 11% of herd for 180 days at 20p 618
Increased yield due to higher effective energy content compared to C16 – 0.2 litres per cow per day for 180 days at 20p 864
Improved fertility – 5 day reduction in days open at£5 per day 3000
Reduced feed costs –assuming 300g/day fed fot 180 days – Butacup Extra @£766/t, C16 @ £830/t 414
Margin benefit per cow over 180 days 41


Scenario 2

An all year round calving herd with all cows turned out.

In addition to maintaining milk quality at grass and ensuring high grazing intakes to drive milk from forage, fertility is a big issue. Getting cows in calf on time can have a big impact on price as it will help ensure the milk profile is achieved. The optimum fat supplement will ensure cows continue to milk well and do not lose excess body condition. It will also ensure good foot health which will have an impact on bulling behaviour. Finally if it contains the oils EPA and DPA it will positively support reproductive efficiency. Fed in the optimum ratio of Ω3 to Ω6, this will increase progesterone levels to support higher pregnancy rates while reducing early embryo loss and providing a higher quality egg. UFAC Omega Cream contains a rumen inert blend of essential fatty acids plus Ω3 oils to provide a balance dietary supplement for cows where fertility is high on the priority list alongside production.


Increased yield due to higher effective energy content compared to C16 – 0.2 litres per cow per day for 180 days at 20p 864
Improved fertility – 5 day reduction in days open at£5 per day 3000
Reduced feed costs –assuming 300g/day fed for 180 days – Omega Cream Extra @£760/t, C16 @ £830/t 483
Margin benefit per cow over 180 days 36

Scenario 3

High yielding, fresh calved cows housed while lowyielders go out to graze.

In this situation fertility is again a key consideration while driving dry matter intakes to increase production. At the same time it will be essentialto maintain milk quality to achieve the best available milk price. In these situations, UFAC Dynalac can provide an excellent cost- effective energy source, being better balanced than a calcium soap while also being cheaper. It contains the essential fatty acids along with the optimum level of Ω3 oils to deliver better fertility. Its high digestibility improves feed conversion and encourages higher dry matter intakes.
The benefit is calculated assuming half the herd (60 cows) is housed all summer.

Increased yield due to higher effective energy content compared to Calcium soap – 2 litres per cow per day for 180 days at 20p for 60 cows 4320
Improved fertility – 5 day re- duction in days open at £5 per day for 60 cows 1500
Reduced feed costs – assuming 300g/day fed for 180 days – Dynalac @£540/t, Calcium soap @ £560/t 65
Margin benefit per cow over 180 days 98

These scenarios clearly demonstrate that one product will not deliver the best results in every situation. Selecting the most suitable product will help deliver better margins.

Don’t let SARA reduce grazing performance

Sub-Acute Rumen Acidosis (SARA) is most commonly associated with cows on winter diets, but as Joe Magadi, UFAC-UK Technical Manager explains it can have a significant impact on performance at grass too. Turnout is often seen as the time when the feeder wagon can be put away, concentrate feed rates can be reduced and cows can be expected to produce more milk from forage.This will be particularly important this year with reduced milk incomes. However, it is still important to follow the key rules about providing and maintaining a healthy rumen. Many of the changes in feeding at turnout can compromise rumen health, meaning cows do not make the most of grazing. Spring grass is in many ways, far from the ideal feed for dairy cows. It is high in rapidly fermented carbohydrates which can cause a fall in rumen pH.At the same time it is short in the fibre essential for optimal rumen function. Together these predispose cows to SARA. At the same time, the switch to feeding more compounds rather than a TMR can increase the supply of rapidly fermented carbohydrate, and even so called HDF compounds do not supply physical fibre.

Avoid production loses The symptoms of SARA in grazing cows will be the same as housed animals, as will the consequences. It is estimated that production losses due to SARA average 2.7 litres/day reduction in milk yield, 0.3 percentage point reduction in butterfat and a 0.12 percentage point reduction in milk protein. Combined these will reduce total milk income and margins at a time when it should be possible to optimise margin per cow per day. Dairy farmers looking to exploit the full potential of grazed grass will take steps to ensure losses resulting from SARA are reduced. A key management action will be to continue buffer feeding to allow rapidly fermented carbohydrates to be balanced and to ensure cows have access to sufficient physical fibre. In addition, it will be important to continue to feed an effective rumen buffer to help reduce rumen acid load and avoid the conditions which predispose cows to SARA. Diets also need to contain sufficient supplies of glucose to fuel the liver to increase lactose production which in turn drive milk yield. A failure to do this can result in excessive mobilisation of body condition which can have a negative impact on fertility. Glyco-Buf from UFAC-UK is a proven nutritional buffer to help increase rumen pH, combined with an effective source of glucose. The combinationof increased glucose supply and improved rumen health can have a significant impact on performance. In a farm trial in south Wales, the addition of Glyco-Buf had a positive impact on all the key parameters affecting financial returns (see table). Supplemented cows increased total dry matter intakes, consuming more forage and less concentrates, so reducing feed costs per litre. The cows produced 9% more milk with 5% higher fat and 1.9% more protein, increasing milk incomes. With the focus on making full use of grazing, paying close attention to rumen health will be the foundation to a successful summer.

Control Glyco-Buff % Exchange
Total DMI (kg/day) 22.9 23.4 +2.2
Concentrate DMI (kg/day) 12.2 11.5 -5.7
Forage DMI (kg/day) 10.7 11.9 +11.2
Milk yield (kg/day) 31.7 34.6 +9.1
Milk Fat (%) 3.75 3.96 +5.6
Milk Lactose (%) 4.57 4.62 +1.1
Milk Protein (%) 3.15 3.21 +1.9


downloadsymbolClick here to download feed 4 thought issue 7 in PDF