Case Study: A Nutritionist’s Strategy for Solving a Starch Discrepancy in the Delivered TMR

Written by: Kevin Buttles, MAT. PAS Sometimes it is easy to get lulled to sleep when there is not much going on at a client’s farm – forages are the same, no fresh cow problems, no real health problems, and components are right on target.  A closer look at the farm’s historical data and a frank discussion regarding goals and expectations with the herd owner revealed a recent slump, or at least a stall, in pounds of milk produced.  My first step was to take a TMR sample for analysis and to compare the results to the formulated diet.  We have all done that.  Many of the nutrients were right on, but when the results showed four whole percentage points less in starch (22.5% instead of 26.5%), I knew I had to attack this problem from multiple angles right away.  I implemented the following investigative strategies during the next six weeks to assess big picture items and to scrutinize the smallest of details. First I retested on-farm forages and HMSC and tested the purchased corn and starch containing commodities. Dry matters needed to be corrected. When I updated the diets, I juggled around different corn sources to take advantage of different starch fermentation rates. I closely evaluated RD starch, kd rates, CHO B3 pdNDF, and uNDF in the CNCPS model.  All seemed to be good. Then I utilized the oven-dried, 7hr lab procedure on the starch containing feeds to take advantage of one of the newer starch digestibility lab procedures to improve accuracy of reporting starch kd rates.  I felt confident that I was supplying sound nutrient data for...

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...