Gear up genetics & exploit potential, says US scientist
By Jeremy Hunt
DAIRY producers must power-up their cows and fully exploit their genetic potential, US nutritionist Bill Chalupa told a farmer meeting in Preston, Lancs, last week.
"Use compound feeds as the starting point of rationing," Prof Chalupa said. "But to get the best out of high merit milkers its vital that part of the diet is specifically formulated to individual herd requirements.
"I cannot stress how important this is and how surprised dairy farmers will be when they realise how much potential performance is locked into their cattle and is not being used because rationing is letting them down," Prof Chalupa told producers.
Research into digestive physiology and metabolism of the dairy cow at Cornell University, New York State, has enabled Prof Chalupa and his colleagues to formulate new strategies on cow nutrition.
Feed in detail
These are based on the CNCPS system – Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System – which describes feeds in detail and enables milk producers to accurately predict how nutrients will be utilised in the rumen.
"We now know how to take advantage of these new technologies involving fat feeding and amino acid balancing. The response in cows with high genetic potential can be quite staggering."
Prof Chalupa said producers must become aware of what parts of their cow husbandry can be worked on to control costs.
"Producers cannot control the price they have to pay for feed but with guidance from the latest nutrition research they can effectively use inputs more strategically.
"A cows lactation cycle shows that she makes most money for the farmer during the first 100-150 days and thats where all the effort needs to be concentrated to provide balanced feeding.
"To achieve that its essential not only to group cows but to group them effectively to enable feed to be utilised efficiently. Getting this right and ensuring the correct cows are benefiting from carefully formulated diets is the key to improved profits."
Speaking to dairy farmers at the meeting organised by Volac and Pye Farm Feeds, Prof Chalupa urged dairy farmers to evaluate their winter feeding by considering selection of feed ingredients and how they were combined within the total diet.
"When you are formulating a ration for a dairy cow you must remember that you are trying to provide nutrients to two systems: one system is the rumen of the cow and the bacteria present there, the other is the mammary gland.
"The aim is to get all we can out of the rumen system and then supplement with by-pass nutrients. The carbohydrate components of the ration and how fermentable they are hold the key.
"Then build on that with fat sources and protein amino acids."
Prof Chalupa said that with so much potential locked-up in dairy cows it was essential that farmers worked closely with nutritionists. But as a starting point milk producers should ask themselves if their rations were properly balanced to allow their cows to perform to full potential.
"A lot of farmers genuinely believe they are feeding a balanced ration but when they start to consider the latest research they realise they are way off track.
"Dairymen want to own cows bred from the latest genetic advances and yet to make best use of them they need to keep pace with nutritional developments which are progressing equally fast."
Failure to do that, said Prof Chalupa, was exposing UK dairy farmers to considerable lost income from milk.
He recommended wider use of maize silage in cow diets to produce more bacterial growth in the rumen and improve protein yield from rumen bacteria. Rumen inert fat should be more widely considered as an energy source as well as different protein and amino acid sources.
"My first protein source would probably be soya bean meal and in addition I would consider processed soya bean meal to increase the flow of amino acids.
"Then try to work in some of the more economical protein sources such as rape seed meal, distillers grains and look at the amino acid pattern again.
"Its likely that there may be a shortage of the amino acid methianine. That could be countered by using one of the methianine analogues now available in the UK to produce biological activity."
Prof Chalupa said if UK dairy farmers did not recognise and respond to the need to power-up their dairy cows to their full potential it seemed pointless spending so much money on genetics.
"Every herd is an individual with its own specific requirements based on the cows and the forage available. It is inefficient to rely solely on a compound ration whose formulation is expected to meet the dietary needs across a whole range of herds.
"Use compounds as a base but fine-tune your rations with a customised diet to help your cows express their inherent ability to produce milk more efficiently and more profitably."
• Specifically formulated ration.
• Strategic use of inputs.
• Concentrate on first 100-150 days of lactation.