Living our Values by Doing What’s Right for the Cow

Doing what’s right for the cows.  That mindset should be the guiding principle of every nutrition consultant.  I often make the comment in my recommendations to dairy producers that I need to speak for the cows.  After doing a herd walk-through or investigating a specific feed or management situation, I summarize the current situation, describe what we want to accomplish, and then explain why it is important to make that change. In other words, how will the cow benefit and what impact will that change have on the producer and profitability. I don’t want to make it sound easy or that each case will result in a slam-dunk conclusion. For instance, I have spent multiple years trying to get one of my customers to improve the quality of haylage stored in his oxygen-limiting silos.  The feed goes in the silo at high quality and in good shape, but often comes out with mold, toxins, or other storage challenges. Inoculants from competitors have been used on the farm for years.  Unfortunately, many times the forage is stored at moisture levels too low for inoculants to work like they are designed to. The compromised forage has often caused digestive upsets, sick cows, and reduced reproductive performance.  Even though this farm is well managed and maintaining daily milk averages over 90 pounds a cow, the fact is this 330 cow farm has spent over $30,000 in a single year for toxin binders and gut health products to combat the issue of poorly stored feed.  At some point enough is enough and someone has to speak for the cows! Slight modifications to harvesting...

The Detrimental Effect of High Ash in Milk Replacers

In recent years, a great deal of attention has been focused on the significance of ash in calf milk replacers (CMR). In order to understand the importance of ash in today’s CMR’s, we first need to define it. Ash content is commonly expressed as a percentage of the total composition of the CMR. That percentage value represents the overall level of minerals in the product. Although manufacturers are not required to specify the level of ash in a CMR, it is a value that should be carefully considered when evaluating and choosing a CMR that best meets the calf’s needs. Measuring the ash content of a CMR is a fairly simple process. Under laboratory conditions, a known amount of CMR powder is exposed to extreme heat for a specific length of time, reduced to ash and then re-weighed. That weight is then expressed as a percentage of the sampled CMR starting weight. So if we start with a CMR sample weight of 60 grams and end up with 4 grams of ash, that CMR would have an ash content of 6.7%. A standard analysis of the ash in CMR shows that is comprised mostly of sodium, potassium, and chloride. These are salts that come from whey powder, which is a by-product of the cheese industry and commonly used as an energy source in the formulation of CMR’s. Depending on the type of cheese being manufactured, the whey may have ash levels in excess of 10%. If the lactose has been removed from the whey (de-lactose whey), the ash level may approach 20%. What does this mean to the calf?...