1 October 1999

High starch bugbears

FEEDING high starch diets containing rolled cereals to transition cows leads to more foot problems than feeding high fibre diets containing sugar beet, according to CEDAR research.

Speaking at the Dairy Event, CEDAR director David Beever explained that Trident Feeds commissioned a trial involving 48 cows in their second to fifth lactations. Cows were fed total mixed rations supplemented with either 1kg of barley or 1kg of sugarbeet for six weeks before calving.

Every four weeks throughout the 28-week trial, cows feet were inspected by vet, Roger Blowey for lesions. Prof Beever reported that by 18-22 weeks of lactation, laminitis incidence was significantly higher in cows fed barley rather than sugarbeet.

Trident nutritionist Matt Witt, explained why foot health was poorer in cows fed the barley diet. "Incorrect feeding can exacerbate lameness problems. Where the ration is rapidly fermentable such as when cereals are fed, acidosis may occur.

"This produces toxins which accumulate in extremities such as the feet, disrupting blood flow to them and increasing laminitis incidence.

"Evidence suggests that once an animal has suffered from laminitis, the chance of it reoccurring in the future is much higher. This may increase involuntary cullings," added Dr Witt.