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...

What is the Price of Value-Added Service and Personal Relationships?

Written by: Chris Kuntz, Agri-Nutrition Consulting Nutrition Consultant Farmers have a lot of pride in providing the best quality product for the end consumer, while also being efficient to show a profit in the end.  As the profit margins get tight, many farmers initial thoughts are where to cut costs.  What we need to remember is, in order to be profitable in times of tight margins, efficiency must continue to increase and non-essentials must be cut from the budget. How do you decide the best way to adapt your operation to the changing economic times?  This is when you can leverage your personal relationship with your consultant to give you that third party, unbiased, and trusted guidance you have learned to rely on. Consultants who you have personal relationships with understand your individual farm, goals, and management practices and are motivated to help you think outside the box and sometimes make unforeseen improvements. For example, this could mean guiding you to new products or services that are best for your operation that you may not have thought of, and it may not even benefit the consultant directly. Through personal relationships with farmers, a consultant becomes privy to understanding the unique ways each farm operation gets through challenging hurdles.  Applying the lessons learned from many unique farm relationships, your consultant can help you find bottlenecks in your production efficiencies.  Furthermore, it is your consultant you can lean on to help prioritize the bottlenecks, get the best return on investment, or determine what could be most cost-effective in a low profit margin economic environment. So can you put a price on...

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...
Going Beyond: Consultant Scores a Home Run with ANC

Going Beyond: Consultant Scores a Home Run with ANC

In February of 2002, Addison Bowman was signed by the Boston Red Sox Organization into the minor league system after a successful history of playing collegiate baseball. In college, Addison was a short-stop and third-baseman and then switched to a catcher and outfield player once he made it into professional baseball. A graduate of Virginia Tech in Agricultural Economics and today an ANC Independent Consultant, Addison relates many of his accomplishments to the value of teamwork. “It is a team game, but you want to do your part to make the team successful,” he says of his baseball experiences. Addison says it is no different on-farm and in nutritional consulting. Addison grew up on a poultry and beef cattle farm in Virginia. Beef cows were one of Addison’s biggest interests, and he has had some of the most fun improving his beef herd throughout the years. Agriculture was a large part of Addison’s life growing up, as was playing baseball. In 2003, Addison was released from the Boston Red Sox Organization and returned to his home poultry farm, as he did not know what he wanted to do after his career in baseball. Around that time, farmers around the area were forming a cooperative called the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative, providing a good opportunity for Addison to join his father in the poultry business. Since his return, Addison has worked full-time at the poultry farm and also owns 50 beef cows, mostly Angus. In addition, Addison runs 100 acres of cash crops and manages his independent nutritional consulting business with Agri-Nutrition Consulting LLC (ANC). Addison started consulting with ANC after...
The Power of Trust on a Dairy Farm

The Power of Trust on a Dairy Farm

Early on a Monday morning, I received the phone call every nutritionist dreads. The message was, “I hate to call you so early on a Monday but the cows are crashing. Milk is dropping fast,and the cows aren’t eating the TMR. We need to fix this!” After taking a message like this, many thoughts raced through my mind, but the primary one was, “This is not normal; something is very wrong.” This call initiated a series of phone calls back and forth with the dairy farmer, the feed mill, the veterinarian and other key advisers to the farm, all in attempt to gain insight as to the cause of the problem. There was a race to get to the bottom of this predicament quickly. In general, there are two outcomes of a situation like this one. The first being the all too often situation, that can only be called the “blame game.” The farmer blames the nutritionist, the nutritionist blames the feed mill, the veterinarian may place blame on nutrition or management, and other advisers find fault with what someone else has done. In essence, no one is stepping up to take any personal responsibility. It can take days to resolve the issue, and the longer it takes to resolve the problem, the more likely relationships between the farmer and key advisers and partners are severed. Some of these relationships may never heal. An alternative outcome from a crisis like this is the building of trust within the producer-advisory team relationship. In this scenario, the producer and all of the key advisers start by examining their roles. Each of...

Winter Forage and Crop Management

 With the help of your ANC Consultant, winter forage and crop management does not have to be challenging. Planning ahead and carrying out protocols that will maximize the feed available for your animals throughout the next year can be accomplished by following these steps: 1. Work with your consultant to determine how many tons of feed you need to meet your forage needs for the next 18 months. Discuss your plan to harvest, store and preserve your crop. Dry matter losses on forages can range from 5 to 20%. Determine the economic value of saving even 1% of the dry matter. Develop a plan to minimize harvest, storage and feeding losses. 2. Ask your consultant to develop a plan to reduce dry matter losses in stored forages. Evaluate bunker packing densities. What can be done to improve packing density? Evaluate face management on bunkers and drive over piles. How much feed is being lost? Test fermented forages to get a VFA profile. Are their opportunities for improvement? Develop a detailed plan to minimize bunker losses. Ask your consultant to help you choose the Pro-Store inoculant(s) that will work best for you (click HERE to read the benefits of using Pro-Store inoculants). Place your order for Pro-Store for inoculating this year’s crops. 3. Ask your consultant to inventory your forages. Determine the quantity of forage you can feed between now and the next harvest. If you are going to be short on forage, work with your consultant to develop a plan. If you have excess forage then consider adjustments to your crop planning for the coming year. 4. Ask your consultant to adjust...