Feed 4 Thought Special Edition

UFAC – The pioneers of balanced fatty acid supply (Feed 4 Thought Special Edition)

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Precision is the key to cost-effective milk production from healthy, fertile dairy cows. Therefore cows must be rationed precisely to meet their needs. Every ingredient in the ration must be effective at playing its specific role.

“When looking at the carbohydrate portion of the ration, for example, you will need to look at the supply of rapidly and slowly fermented sources to optimise rumen performance and health,” Mike Chown, UFAC UK National Sales Manager suggests.  “You wouldn’t just add carbohydrate.

“The same is true for fats.  Each fatty acid has a unique role in the animal so you need to make sure the right fatty acids are fed in the correct balance to meet the cow’s needs at different stages of lactation.  However, in many cases fat products on offer fail to take account of this requirement.”

He says for example, that many fat supplements are high in C16:0 fat.  While this is effective in mid and late lactation when driving milk fat and sustaining milk yields, it is of negligible value in early lactation when the cows’ needs are for fats that help reduce negative energy balance, improve overall feed efficiency and support the immune and reproductive systems to achieve higher levels of fertility.

Mr Chown says much-publicised new research from the US confirms why farmers need to ensure cows are receiving a balanced fatty acid supply, adequate in C18:1, C18:2 and C18:3.  However, he says the research ignores other essential fatty acids.

“There is no mention in the research of the essential omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are respectively C20:5 and C22:6.  These play a huge role in supporting the immune function and fertility during the transition period and early lactation, influencing hormonal activity to improve egg quality and reduce early embryo loss.

“To ensure a truly balanced fatty acid supply you have to take account of all the essential fatty acids, not just some of them, and understand how the balance in their requirements by the cow will be affected by stage of lactation. Only by understanding this and tailoring supplements is it possible to ensure your cows are receiving the essential fatty acids needed to optimise performance and health throughout the lactation and control feed costs.

“At UFAC this targeted approach to fatty acid supplementation is something we are proud to have been pioneering for many years, with a range of blended products tailored to specific circumstances starting with transition cows and moving right through lactation.”

In this special edition of Feed 4 Thought we explain how increasing the focus on the role of individual fatty acids will help you drive efficiency and exploit your milk contract.

 

 

Welcome from Robert Jones, MD

You cannot rely on guaranteed higher prices to drive your business.  Milk buyers may have increased prices which is a great thing, and demand for increased butterfat and protein is an added incentive to producers, giving an opportunity to further increase price. However, there are already forecasts that prices might come back again.

If you can’t control or often predict your product price, you need to get a tight rein on costs. All dairy farmers need to optimise the return on investment from every pound they spend, developing a robust cost structure capable to delivering a return across a range of milk prices.

Looking at nutrition, we are entering a new era of increased precision with new rationing programmes able to more closely match cow’s requirements with the nutrients in the diet which will help drive cost efficiency.  You don’t now just feed carbohydrates, but a blend of carbohydrates which perform different tasks.

This precision approach has been used at UFAC UK for many years to develop fatty acid blends tailored to meet the specific requirements of cows at different stages of lactation and so delivering a more cost-effective supplement.

For dairy farmers it is about building a herd of healthy, fertile, productive, profitable cows.  The challenge is to identify and grasp the opportunities that are there to drive efficiency.  Our team is here to help deliver efficient and effective diets and we will be delighted to offer a second opinion on your rations.

 

 

UNDERSTANDING FATS – UNRAVELLING THE FATTY ACID MAZE

 

For years, dairy farmers have been encouraged to add fats to their diets, primarily as a way to improve energy density and increase production. But as Mike Chown, UFAC UK National Sales Manager explains, feeding the correct fatty acids at the appropriate stage of lactation can have a significant impact on efficiency which is why UFAC UK have been producing tailored blends of fatty acids for over 30 years.

Fatty acids perform different tasks in the cow. Feeding the correct fatty acids, in the optimum ratio at the correct stage of lactation can have a significant impact on performance in numerous ways.

Feeding the right fatty acids can help reduce bodyweight loss in early lactation, it can improve overall feed efficiency, it can help improve reproductive performance and it can increase the yield of high quality milk cost-effectively.  Feeding the wrong fats can reduce performance and show a poor, if any return on investment.

Our experience, gained over many years is that fatty acid blends are a way to improve productivity and margins.

 

 

Which fatty acids are important?

There are seven fatty acids whose roles need to be understood if diets are to be produced that optimise performance.  Each can have different effects at different stages of lactation.  A failure to feed the correct fatty acids can compromise performance and some fatty acids can actually have a negative effect on performance.

The fatty acids which need to be included in dairy diets are:

Palmitic acid C16:0 which is used directly by the udder to improve milk fat.

Oleic acid C18:1 which improves the efficiency of digestion of all fats in the diet and helps reduce negative energy balance and body fat mobilisation. It also improves the effectiveness of the footpad resulting in less lameness.

Linoleic acid C18:2 also known as Ω6, this is an essential fatty acid which cannot be produced by the cow but has an impact on growth reproductive performance and aids parturition.

Linolenic acid C18:3 a source of Ω3, it has an impact on egg quality and embryo survival.

EPA and DHA C20:5 and C22:6 from marine sources are the most effective source of Ω3 and have a positive effective on reproductive performance and the immune system.

In early lactation you need to focus on the fatty acids which promote improved feed efficiency and which boost reproductive performance and the immune system to helps cows transition and get established in lactation and back in calf.  In mid and late lactation the principle need is for fats which promote improved milk yield and butterfat.

One fatty acid which is common in dairy diets but which has a negative effect on total fatty acid digestibility is Stearic acid C18:0. Therefore supplements should not exceed more than 30% C18:0.

Tailored fatty acid blends deliver optimum performance

Not all fatty acid products contain optimum blends to meet the cow’s requirements at specific stages of lactation. At UFAC we have used our understanding of fatty acid utilisation in ruminants, built up over many years, to develop a range of products which can meet the requirements of dairy cows.

The table compares 4 UFAC products with standard calcium soap and C16 products and shows the impact that blending can have, providing a balance of fatty acids and allowing products to be selected to meet the demands of cows at different stages of lactation to drive efficiency.

 

UFAC Venus UFAC Dynalac

UFAC Omega

Cream

UFAC Omega 3

Supplement

Calcium Soap

C16

Product

C14:0 4.0 5.37 2.89 6.02 1.5 2.0
C16:0 37.2 17.58 70.0 14.03 42.83 86.0
C18:0 10.1 22.11 6.25 3.32 3.46 4.0
C18:1 15.0 15.81 13.15 11.73 30.17 6.0
C18:2 5.8 7.8 3.5 4.85 5.92 1.5
C18:3 1.7 2.91 0.4 0.67 0.17 0.0
C20:5 EPA 3.65 1.77 0.8 11.37 0.0 0.0
C22:6 DHA 5.3 2.51 1.2 19.76 0.0 0.0
Total Omega 3* 10.65 7.19 2.4 28.80 0.17 0.0
Suitability for different stages of lactation
Transition G G O G O R
Early G G O G O R
Mid G G G O O G
Late O O G O G G

Green = well suited, orange = usable but not ideal, red = not recommended

*total omega 3 = C18: plus EPA and DHA

 

BALANCED SUPPLEMENTATION DRIVES PERFORMANCE INCREASE

 

Balanced supplementation for performance increase In twelve months, Charlie Morris from Edgeborough Farm near Taunton has put 800 litres on his rolling yield per cow with all the increase coming from better use of forage, as a consequence of diet changes that have improved rumen function.

Charlie farms the 500 acre farm in partnership with his parents John and Rachel.  Herdsman Colin Hiscox is involved in the day to day operation of the herd.  The emphasis has long been on maximising contribution from home grown feeds to the 120 head herd of cross bred dairy cows.  Initially Holstein Friesians, Norwegian Reds and Flekvieh are being used to improve longevity and fertility.

Around 250 acres of arable crops are grown every year with 190 acres on a share farming agreement while the other 60 acres are used to grow wheat and beans for the cows.

The remaining 250 acres are used for forage production with 30 acres of maize grown per year.  There are 75 acres of cutting leys which will be cut six times a year.  Charlie is an advocate of multi-cut systems, arguing that if you grazing every 3-4 weeks to optimise quality, then you should cut silage at the same interval.

All cutting leys are down to grass and red clover mixes and he reseeds 20 acres a year.  The red clover has raised the protein content of silages by 2% and this year’s first cut was taken on 20th April.  Around 40 acres of permanent pasture are used for ‘grazing’ by the milking herd.  A further 60 acres are grazed by dry cows and youngstock.

Robot system

Charlie was one of the first farmers to move into robots when he installed a Merlin system in 2000 when he had 70 cows.

“We looked at the economics of employing a herdsman and they did not stack up but robots offered an alternative,” Charlie explains.  “I liked the idea of more regular milking to reduce stress on the cow too.”

The all year round calving herd are TMR fed with concentrate through the robots.  From late March to early November cows are allowed out to graze in the evening when they have been milked.  It is seen primarily as a way to give cows exercise and no more than 5% of the diet is assumed to come from grazing.  In the winter they are fed a TMR diet twice a day.

Last summer Charlie began working with independent nutritionist Andrew Jones as he was concerned that milk from forage and overall performance was less than it should be.

An initial assessment suggested several changes would improve performance.

“Looking at the diet I felt cows were in need of more energy and DUP,” Andrew comments.  “There were also signs of SARA with frothy dung.

As the diet comprised grass and maize silage, a homegrown blend and a high energy dairy cake, the first step was to change the blend and increase the amount of protein.

“To complement the home grown wheat and beans we added a protein blend comprising Hipro, rape and soya hulls (see table 1).  Later we also looked to make full use of the two feed heads on the robots by targeting compounds by stage of lactation.”

Targeted compounds

Initially all cows were switched to an 18%HDF compound.  Now a 21% HDF is fed as a base compound to all cows, providing low energy and high protein.  High yielders receive 2.5kg of the 21% cake in addition to a 16%HE cake to provide the additional energy required.  The aim is to target cows better while reducing the overall cost of concentrates.

“I was also concerned at the acid load in the diet so wanted to buffer the rumen to improve overall rumen function to get the most from forages.  Low DUP in the original diet would be having an impact on fertility while with yield being pushed we needed to make sure we maintained milk quality.

“To help achieve these three objectives we added 0.75kg of UFAC Dairy Balancer to the diet.  Diary Balancer is a mix of three proven UFAC products –  Glyco-Buf, Promega & Buta-Cup Extra.”

Glyco-Buf is a unique calcium-glycerol product which helps maintain optimum rumen health and fibre digestion thereby increasing dry matter intake. It also supplies glucose direct to the liver to drive up milk production.

Promega is a unique combination of quality proteins and essential fatty acids derived from highly digestible oils and is as close as it is possible to get to traditional fishmeal with none of the draw backs.

Buta-Cup Extra is a specific, balanced blend of fatty acids derived from highly digestible oils and C16 fats combined with glycerine to give a highly palatable free flowing meal, designed to help drive milk quality throughout the year.

“The Glyco-Buf improves rumen function by controlling SARA.

Promega helps improve the overall protein and DUP supply.  It improves the health and fertility of the cow through the availability of the fish oil which provides essential fatty acids including EPA and DHA.  The cow cannot produce these herself but they help drive egg quality and size, leading to more viable pregnancies.  Finally Buta-Cup Extra helps improve energy density and increases fat production.

“By providing all three supplements in one bag, feeding is more straightforward and more accurate.”

The results have been significant (see table 2).  Milk yield has risen by over 10% in a single year with no increase in concentrates used.  Milk from forage has increased to 33% of all production and yield of fat and protein per cow has increased too.  Feed cost per litre has risen marginally, reflecting the increased protein blend but concentrates are now more targeted through the robots.

C16 removed

“We recently reviewed the diet and based on price have decided to take the C16 fat out of the diet, replacing 0.75kg of Dairy Balancer with 0.5kg of Promega-Buf, a mix of Promega and Glygo-Buf.  As rumen function is optimised with an effective acetate fermentation we are hopeful butterfat production will be unaffected.”

Charlie Morris is delighted with the results. “We are getting more milk from forage, achieving higher yields with a more sustainable cost.  Feeding a consistent diet has clearly helped and adding three supplements from one bag makes feeding more straightforward. And when we decided we could remove the C16 on price, we just swapped to a product containing the two supplements we needed.”

 

Table 1 Edgeborough Farm diets

Kg/cow/day June 2016 July 2016 October 2017
Grass silage 15.0 27.0 30.0
Maize silage 15.0 6.0 12.0
Wheat straw 0.5 0.75
Grazing 20.0 6.0 7.75
Wheat/beans 2.4 0.8
Wheat 2.0
HE Compound 9.0 6.5
HDF Compound 9.0 2.5
Protein blend 1.6 1.5
Dairy balancer 0.75
Promega-Buf 0.5

 

 

Table 2 Edgeborough Farm performance

August 2016 August 2017
Cows in herd 115 116
Yield per cow (l) 7674 8444
Milk from forage/cow (l) 1962 2766
% of production from forage 26% 33%
Butterfat (%) 4.09 4.00
Protein (%) 3.22 3.19
Concentrate use per cow (kg) 2827 2806
Feed rate  (kg/l) 0.37 0.33
Purchased feed cost/litre (p) 7.31 8.45

 

 

Look beyond headline figures to make most of silage

 

Maximising production from silage will be a key objective this winter, helping reduce the requirement for purchased feeds while also helping maintain better rumen health.  Mark Townsend, UFAC UK South and South West Regional Sales Manager explains that the analysis now provides considerably more information which can help get the most from silage

Whenever I talk grass silage results with farmers and nutritionists, the conversation inevitably starts, and often stops, with the well-understood headline figures.  We talk dry matter percent, D value, energy and protein content along with NDF content.  While these figures tell us a lot about the forage cows will consume they don’t tell us much about how it will perform in the cow.

Now, however, we have access to a range of new parameters produced as part of the Trouw Nutrition NutriOpt Dairy system which will tell us a lot more about how the forage will be used by the cow and the implications for rumen health and performance.  This will help us develop more effective diets.

 

Look closely at lactic acid

The analysis report shows the content of Lactic acid in the silage which is normally considered an indicator of fermentation quality.  It can however also have a big impact on rumen performance.

Lactic acid is an energy source to the cow and is also a very strong acid which can lead to increased risk of acidosis and ketosis.  If you have silages with a high lactic acid content (above 70g/kgDM) and also high levels of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (above 150g/kgDM) which produce lactic acid in the rumen and can increase the acidosis risk, you should consider feeding a buffer like UFAC Glyco-Buf which is formulated to help maintain optimum rumen health and fibre digestion, maintaining a rumen pH of 5.5-6.8.  It also supplies glucose direct to the liver to drive up milk production.

If you have high lactic acid and low rapidly fermentable carbohydrates you need to add an energy source which will increase energy without creating an acidosis risk.  Glycerene is a unique glycerol product developed to help optimise early lactation and transition performance by looking after the liver in particular. It reducing levels of BHBs and NEFAs in the blood, the by-products of inefficient fat utilisation and body fat mobilization and also reduces the risk of acidosis and SARA.

 

Watch ADL levels

The usual measures of fibre are NDF and ADF which are the digestible fractions and provide energy to the cow.  ADL (Acid Detergent Lignin) is the total undigestible fraction of fibre which passes direct into the dung.  The lower the ADL level the better.

If ADL levels are high, typically above 25g/kgDM, then you have two options.  You can either mix the high ADL forage with a more digestible forage and so reduce the overall ADL content.  If however you can only feed one forage, it will be necessary to reduce the forage portion of the diet to increase overall diet digestibility and boost intakes.

 

Think amino acids, not total protein

When you feed protein, you are really feeding amino acids.  Rationing based on amino acids is more precise and can potentially allow a saving in diet costs.  Many silage analyses do not report on the levels of lysine and methionine, the key amino acids in silage. New rationing systems can now ration cows on the basis of amino acid requirements and supply too.

Animals will perform to the lowest available amino acid.  Increasing the level of other amino acids rather than the limiting one will just push up protein content but with no response in terms of milk production so it is important to tailor protein sources in the diet.

If lysine is high while methionine is low then consider high methionine ingredients like prairie meal and rape.

If however methionine is high and lysine in short supply, then soya will be a sensible choice. If overall protein is balanced for amino acids then feed a balance of protein sources.

The increased information available of the feeding value of forages has opened the door to more precise diet formulation which will help drive milk production while controlling costs.

 

Milk records – your monitor of fatty acid efficiency

If you are going to assess how effectively your diet is supplying the key fatty acids, you need to know where to look.  What are the indicators of effective supplementation?  According to UFAC UK Regional Sales Manager in Scotland and the North of England, David Bonsall, the answers lie in milk recording data, suggesting some new analyses can throw extra light on how the cows and diet are performing.

A more in-depth look at milk recording data can really take the lid off how cows and the diet are performing, not just the essential fatty acids but also energy and protein. This will allow management to be fine-tuned to improve performance and efficiency.  This is particularly true for cows in the crucial first 100 days of lactation.

Milk records need to be seen as a dynamic management tool. Using data already reported by NMR and CIS you can evaluate fresh cow energy status. The milk fatty acid profile in particular can be a good indicator of the type of fermentation being achieved in the rumen, whether acetic, butyric or propionic, and can be used to determine animal health, rumen function and potential milk solids.

 

For cows less than 100 days in milk, look at the following:

A.  Short chain Fatty Acids

Levels over 9% show that rumen function is adequate.  Levels below this are an indication of insufficient scratch factor in the diet or too little starch and sugar in the transition diet.

B.  Check the fat: protein ratio

This is a good indicator of whether cows are mobilising excess body fat. If the ratio is greater than 1.5:1 then it is probable too much body fat is being mobilised with the risk of metabolic disorders and associated poor health and fertility.  Aim is to have fat: protein ratio of less than 1.3 by 40 days in milk.

C.  The levels of C18:1 cis 9 and mono unsaturated fats (MUFAs)

Ideally C18:1 cis 9 should be below 22% of total milk fat with MUFAs being below 30%. If levels exceed these, it is an indication that fresh-calved cows are losing too much body condition daily.-In these cases, total energy intake needs to be examined.

D.  Milk lactose.

Lactose concentration can vary from c.3.5-4.9%.  The minimum in early lactation cows should be 4.5% and ideally should be over 4.6%.  If lactose is low, then check energy supply and particularly the extent of propionic fermentation in the rumen. Milk lactose can also be reduced if cows are fighting infection as glucose is diverted to boost the immune system.

E.  Milk protein

A fall in milk protein content to below 3.1% can signal that cows are short of energy and DUP (essential amino acids). This commonly occurs when cows have lost so much condition in early lactation that they have mobilised muscle as well as fat, and are using protein in the diet to rebuild muscle. In such cases look at energy levels in the diet to try and reduce condition loss and negative energy balance.

 

By checking these areas it will be possible to identify where problems may be cropping up. It is also important to look at when problems are occurring, or more importantly stop occurring.  If problems are in the first 40 days of lactation, the source of the problem is more likely to be in the transition diet. Later in lactation would suggest it is the fresh calved cow diet which needs reviewing

With the focus on improving efficiency to reduce costs, delving into milk records could help highlight where diets can be fine-tuned to get fresh calved cows performing to their potential. It is critical that cows should be fed and managed to their genetic potential.

which will help drive milk production while controlling costs.

 

 

Understanding true energy value of fats

Formulating the most cost-effective diet relies on an accurate assessment of the energy content of feeds.  As Joe Magadi UFAC UK Technical Manager explains, this must involve taking a closer look at oils and fats.

“When formulating a diet, one of the key building blocks is a forage analysis, allowing you to take accurate account of the quality of forage,” Joe explains.  “Dairy farmers know forage quality will vary and so plan to take account of it, yet many assume all oils and fats will provide similar energy content when looking to build a diet.  Nothing could be further from the truth.”

While the gross energy content of fats and oils is constant at 39MJ/kgDM, independent studies highlight several factors that will determine the overall ME that is actually available to the cow.  These are:

  • Actual oil content – fat products contain differing amounts of fatty acids
  • Digestibility – the digestibility of different fats and oils varying, which affects the amount actually available to the cow
  • Mix of fats – blends of oils and fats have a synergistic effect on energy yield. In simple terms blends of oils and fats supply around 7% more energy than a single fat product
  • The carrier – where a fat supplement includes a carrier, this in itself can be a source of energy.

The table below compares the actual energy supply for three common fat supplements used on UK dairy farms – a high C16 product, a calcium soap and UFAC Dynalac which is a blended oil product supplied on a carrier.

Because Dynalac is based on a blend of oils and fats, it has high digestibility due to the synergistic effect, with ME yield of 27MJ/kgDM. Calcium soaps on the other hand, although typically quoted as being 33MJ/kgDM, are actually only 26.2MJ/kgDM, mainly because of the lower digestibility.  The only way calcium soap could provide 33MJ per kg is if the fat was 100% digestible.

When you also consider that calcium soaps cost around £720 on farm and Dynalac is £630 per tonne, the economic consequence is considerable.  While Dynalac works out at 2.3p/MJ compared with calcium soap at 2.7p/MJ.

When incorporating fats and oils in dairy cow diets, work out the true ME to ensure cows receive the energy they require and calculate pence/MJ to ensure you get the best margins.

High C16:0 Calcium Soap Dynalac
Energy content of oils and fats (MJ/kgDM) 39 39 39
Oil content (%) 99 84 50
Effective energy (MJ/kgDM) 38.6 32.7 19.5
Digestibility (%) 47 80.0 93.6
Digestible energy (MJ/kgDM) 18.33 26.2 18.26
*Synergistic effect of oil and fat blends 0 0 +7%
ME contribution from carrier (MJ/kg) 0 0 +5.5
Overall ME (MJ/kgDM) 18.33 26.2 27.0

 

  1. *National Research Council (2001). Nutrient Requirements for Dairy Cattle. National Academic Press. 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW. Washington D. C. 20418. Chap 3: 28-33.

 

 

 

 

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