28 July 1995

Milk protein boost at farmers choice?

DAIRY producers will be able to switch on milk protein by up to 0.5% provided work at the Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR) comes to commercial fruition.

That was the message of Prof David Beever, director of CEDAR and chair of animal science at the University of Reading, to a Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers meeting at CEDAR.

He told farmers that the extra protein lift could be secured between milkings.

The breakthrough is the result of over four years research by CEDAR and the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, in the "Snowball" project – funded by the former MMB, MAFF, and two commercial companies.

"The Snowball project has benefited from sponsors who were prepared to commit to longer-term sustained research," says Prof Beever.

He claims researchers have increased milk protein content by up to 0.5% within 12 hours, in both high and low-yielding cows.

The key is supplying the cow with certain essential amino acids that encourage the cow to produce extra milk protein without increasing milk yield at the same time.

For this reason Prof Beever urges the industry to re-focus its thinking on dairy cow feeding.

"We must pay more attention to the amino acid composition of protein in the ration used for milk protein production," he says.

The spotlight had been focused on digestion and absorption in the rumen, not on amino acid metabolism in the tissues of the cow.

"Lets abandon the idea of pushing nutrients into the cow and hoping something will happen when they arrive in the udder," he says.

Prof Beever admits it could be four years before farmers can "turn-on" protein overnight. "But we now know the cow will respond to what we are telling her."

he explains.