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...

Effective Fiber: Differences in Actual and Predicted peNDF

The goal in formulating and feeding dairy rations is to match the ration on paper to the ration the cow actually eats. Moisture changes in forages, forage changes, inaccurate scales, and lax mixing procedures are some of the reasons they are not the same. We can send in a TMR sample to the lab to measure protein , fiber, starch, mineral content, etc. to see how close the formulated ration and the TMR actually are. But how effective is this fiber in the rumen? Most ration programs give an estimate of peNDF (physical effective NDF). This estimation uses fiber levels of our feed ingredients to predict the ration contribution to an adequate rumen mat in the rumen. PeNDF predictions gives us an idea of changes in fiber contribution, but not a good measure of actual peNDF. We can use the Penn State Particle Separator to give use an actual peNDF value. There are three different versions with different calculations for each one. Measuring actual peNDF in TMRs 3 “screen” – 2 Sieves and a pan Add calculated percentage of top two sieves  plus 20% of bottom pan  and multiply by  the NDF of ration 4 “screen” – 3 sieves  (3rd sieve is a fine screen) and a pan Add calculated percentage of top two sieves plus 30% of 3rd sieve and multiply by NDF of the ration 4 “screen” with new 3rd sieve having 0.16 inch (4 mm) openings. This new screen was designed to measure peNDF. Add calculated percentage of top 3 screens and multiply by NDF of ration How close is the actual to the predicted?  If the actual peNDF is significantly lower than predicted peNDF, cow performance may be enhanced...

Adding Methionine to Lactating Dairy Rations

The benefits of adding methionine to dairy lactating rations to enhance milk and milk protein production has been known for many years. The return on investment of this inclusion was usually measured by the cost of the methionine against the potential return from milk protein production.  The value of milk protein has varied greatly over the last few years. The value of this milk protein is at a low point, which has many questioning the value of adding methionine, and some reducing the amount of supplementation. Additional research has shown the value of feeding dairy cows methionine pre- and post-freshening. Research shows it improves immune function during the critical transition period. A presentation at the 2016 Four-State Nutrition Conference by Dr. Phil Cardoso of the University of Illinois highlighted the beneficial effects of methionine supplementation during the later stages of follicle growth and early embryo development. Supplemented cows had lower early embryonic death (primarily between day 21-61). “Supplementation of cows with methionine during the final stages of follicular development and early embryo development, until Day 7 after breeding, lead to lipid accumulation changes in the embryos and resulted in differences in gene expression in the embryo.  Methionine supplementation seems to impact the preimplantation embryo in a way that enhances its capacity for survival because there is strong evidence that endogenous lipid reserves serve as an energy substrate. The lower pregnancy losses from cows fed methionine enriched diets suggest that methionine favors embryo survival, at least in multiparous cows. Further studies are needed to corroborate whether supplementation with methionine would have a beneficial impact on embryo survival and if these...

Four Pregnancy Loss Risk Factors and How to Control Them

Pregnancy losses may be a larger problem on most dairies than many realize. This may be because pregnancy losses are only recorded after a pregnancy is confirmed at 30 to 45 days after insemination. However, recent studies have shown that more than 60 percent of all pregnancies are lost prior to term. And 85% of these losses occur prior to day 42, when the embryo becomes a fetus. That means that 51% of all pregnancies are lost before day 42 of the pregnancy. There are many causes for these losses. Known risk factors include: Postpartum diseases and disorders like dystocia, metritis, endometritis, mastitis, fever, ketosis and lameness Heat stress Digestive problems Negative energy balance and excessive weight loss Toxins in feedstuffs such as mycotoxins, gossypol and ergot alkaloids Infectious agents such as IBR, BVD, Campylobacter ssp., Lepta and Neospora caninum. Here are some steps you can take to control or reduce the following risk factors: 1.Heat Abatement One way to reduce these risks factors is with heat abatement. High producing dairy cows are sensitive to heat stress due to their high feed intake and high metabolic rate that generate body heat. Heat stress affects fertilization and early embryonic development. Therefore heat abatement becomes important to help prevent pregnancy losses.  Examples of heat abatement management practices are: Fans for air movement Sprinklers to wet the cows body surface Misters to cool the environment Shade in outdoor lots 2. Improved Health Fertility is strongly related to a cow’s health status. Cows with dystocia, metritis or endometritis are much less likely to have normal ovaria function which effects embryo development. Cows with...

5 Ways to Reduce Your Protein Bill

1. Track changes in forage dry matter % – Remember rations are balanced on a dry matter basis and mixed on an as-fed basis.  Monitoring moisture changes in your forages help you add the proper amount of dry matter of each forage.  If there’s a drastic change in moisture, maybe it’s time to resample. 2. Closely monitor MUNs – This seems like a given.  However there are still processors that don’t supply their patrons with MUNs from every load of milk shipped.  I have noticed that if you request MUNs for every load, typically you find little resistance.  The proper MUN for every farm may vary.  The more accurately the TMR is loaded with more consistent forages and less daily variation in feeding times, the lower your MUN can run without impacting milk production.  Your nutritionist has to formulate for the lowest MUN.  So if your goal is to run an 8 MUN and within a week your readouts are MUNs of 8-10-8-6-8-9-6, you have to feed to the low MUN of 6, not the average of 8.  You would have to feed more protein in this scenario because the cows were short two days. 3. Grind your corn finely – Getting a fine grind on your corn not only makes more energy available to the cow but it also helps you reduce your bypass protein needs.  Rumenally available starch will grow more rumen bacteria.  Those bacteria have the most ideal amino acid profile of any “feedstuff” available.  Those bacteria eventually make their way to the small intestine where they are absorbed.  If you grow more bacteria you need...

Trace mineral supplementation in dairy rations

It has been a common practice to reduce the amount of trace minerals (VTM) in lower producing or late lactation cows because of the belief that these cows have a lower requirement than high producing cows. They do have a lower requirement, but not necessarily a lower concentration in their diet. These trace minerals include iron, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, chromium, and selenium. High producing cows (with higher dry matter intakes) can utilize more of the trace minerals from feedstuffs. Cows with lower dry matter intakes that are fed reduced levels of VTM do not have the same opportunity to make up the difference as higher producing cows. Post fresh cows fed a lactating diet but only consuming two thirds of the intake may be short of requirements. Here is what we need to do to ensure the cows are receiving the right levels of VTMs: Use wet chem analysis on forages to get accurate levels. Cobalt, chromium and selenium levels are not tested. High ash forages (soil contamination) may give higher levels of trace minerals, but they may not be as available. Other minerals, like high sulfur levels with copper, may be antagonistic and limit their absorption. This may require feeding higher levels to compensate, or using a more available source. Feed 1.2-1.5 times NRC requirements to ensure adequate levels. Diets are limited to .3 ppm added supplemental selenium. Selenium yeasts will have more available selenium than inorganic forms. Feeding bentonite can inhibit absorption and may require higher feeding levels. To answer the question, does it cost more to overfeed or underfeed trace minerals, the answer is to...