Immunity: Is it really as easy as 1-2-3?

Everywhere you look it seems as though Immunity is the big buzzword of the dairy industry.  Just thumb through any dairy periodical and you will find headlines like the following: ‘Research Studies Show Benefits of Dairy Cattle Immune Function’ ‘Maximizing Passive Immunity’ ‘Improved Immune Response Leads to Healthier Animals’ ‘We Can Now Find the Best Immune Systems’ It seems that everyone is claiming that their product or their program can address the immune challenges on your farm.  And why not?  Chronic infections are costly to the dairy (testing, treating, lost production). After all, we all know that a healthy cow is a profitable cow.  The challenge for us is to sort through the jargon to find what we can really do to have a positive impact on overall herd immune function. An Immune System Built for Success Managing your herd for immunity takes a 3-sided approach:     NUTRITION More and more research is exploring the role of nutrition in a cow’s ability to fight infection. A balanced nutrition program works to provide the foundation necessary to thwart any infectious organism.  Dr. Scott Bascom described how key nutrients play a vital role in the immune function of the mammary gland in an earlier posting ‘The ABC’s and Z’s of Nutrition’s Role in Mastitis’.  In contrast, a nutritional program that is lacking key factors (energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins) can impact immunosuppression in the animal. HERD HEALTH PLAN A herd health plan is essential for minimize infections on your farm.  The goal of the plan is the prevention of, rather than the management of, problems.  A good plan starts with...

The ABC’s and Z’s of Nutrition’s Role in Mastitis

Mastitis is an expensive disease.  The estimated lost milk per case of mastitis is 242 to 1,214 lbs. of milk per lactation!   The dairy industry has focused a lot of attention on reducing the incidence of mastitis.   Even so, from 1995 to 2006 the incidence of mastitis increased from 13.4% to 16.5%.    Therefore reducing the incidence of mastitis is a priority for the dairy industry. The mammary gland is a complex organ with a variety of mechanisms to prevent infections that cause mastitis.  Some of the ways infections are prevented include physical defense barriers that prevent micro-organisms from entering the teat end, a complex array of immune responses to infection, and mechanisms for repair to tissues that have been damaged by infection.  Several vitamins and minerals play a key role in the mammary gland in helping to prevent infections that result in mastitis. Protein, copper, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, D, and E play an important role in preventing mastitis.   These nutrients have an impact on antibody production.  In addition, a deficiency of these nutrients may lead to a variety of metabolic diseases that weaken the immune system and leave the cow susceptible to mastitis. More specifically, the trace minerals copper, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and E improve the ability of the immune cells to kill pathogens that may cause mastitis. There has been a considerable amount of research conducted with vitamin E.  These research trials demonstrate that supplementation with vitamin E reduces somatic cell counts in fresh cows when high levels are fed during the dry period.  Additionally, cows fed higher levels of this vitamin have...

Your Herd is Limited by Your Shortest Stave

Here at ANC, we say “Go Beyond Nutrition” a lot.  You understand what it means.  It means looking at the little things, it means striving to get to the bottom of issues on-farm that may not necessarily be related to the ration, and it means superior customer service.  But how do we do this? Our consultants pride themselves on being on-farm more often rather than sitting in front of a computer running rations.  They like to “talk to your cows” per say and really get down to business on how to help you reach your production and herd goals.  One theory that we like to use is called “the shortest stave in the barrel.”  This includes evaluating all of the various areas on a farm and determining what may be the weakest link.  A herd is limited by its shortest stave. As you can see by the example above, that particular farm is limited by their forage quality and calf raising.  This farm may be seeing results even though they have short staves, but for how long?  Our consultants strive to work with you to discover the most limiting areas on the farm and help you to bring that area up to its potential.  Because ANC consultants use a whole-herd evaluation, they can guide you to changes that prevent bigger problems, as well as bringing milk production up closer to your goals. Work with an ANC Independent Consultant to discover what your high and low staves are.  Your Consultant is here to help you eliminate the short ones.  With an experienced team of nutritionists and technical support specialists and a superb product...

Ash: The Dirty Word in Haylage

Quality haylage is highly palatable and a great source of digestible fiber and protein.   However, poor quality haylage can be a wet, stinky, slimy mess, with low nutrient content.    The difference between high quality haylage and low quality haylage can hinge on a few factors including stage of maturity of the plant at cutting, moisture of the crop at ensiling, weather conditions between cutting and harvest, and soil contamination of the crop. The nutritionists at ANC periodically review summary statistics from the forage testing labs to look for trends in the quality of the forage being made by our customers.  This year we noted that the average ash content of the forages sampled during the month of July was approaching 11%.  The goal for haylage is to have the ash between 8 and 10%.  So on average these samples were higher in ash than desired. What does this mean?   In a wet chemistry analysis of forages, the ash content is determined by burning the sample at 500◦C for two hours.  The temperature of the oven is so high that it burns the entire sample except for the minerals.  The term “ash” on a forage sample report refers to the collective mineral composition of the sample.  The alfalfa plant contains 6-8% ash in the plant itself.   Any additional ash is likely coming from soil that sticks to the outside of the plant. Soil contamination of forage prior to or during harvest is one of the primary reasons a forage sample will be higher than 8% in ash.   The major source of mineral in soil is silica.  Silica is not harmful...

TMR Audit: Slight variations increased dairy’s risk of SARA

The goal in feeding a TMR is to minimize the number of hours during the day when rumen pH is below 5.8. Low rumen pH inhibits rumen microbial growth and causes subacute rumen acidosis (SARA). Feeding rations that contain high levels of fermentable carbohydrate, too little effective fiber or encourage slug feeding may result in SARA. SARA symptoms may include roller-coaster dry matter intakes, inconsistent manure, bubbly manure, reduction in cud chewing and a low milk-fat test. Cows may slug feed if the TMR is not mixed consistently, resulting in extended periods of low rumen pH. The ideal TMR is mixed so that every bite is the same, thus reducing the chance of slug feeding. Well-mixed TMRs also encourage cows to eat several small meals during the day, reducing the risk of SARA even further. In February 2013, our team of nutritionists conducted a case study to prove the importance of consistency in the TMR mixing process. We visited a 300-cow Holstein herd in northern Virginia and evaluated the cows, facilities and manure. We found an inconsistency in the manure, with some being too stiff and others being too loose. The cows were digging holes in the TMR with their muzzles, indicating that they were sorting the TMR. When cows sort feed, they tend to eat larger meals of highly fermentable carbohydrates, which increases the likelihood of SARA. Even with our concerns about sorting, the tank average was 75 pounds of milk with a 4.0 percent fat test. The herd owner’s goals were to increase milk per cow and improve hoof health, both of which are impacted by SARA....