Archive for the ‘Conversations’ Category

Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about silage quality and hygiene

Having to throw away spoiled silage can be tough: The losses involved are right there to be seen, almost like dollar bills being pitched. Feeding spoiled silage can have more serious consequences, including decreased intakes, reproduction problems and reduced production, leading to bigger losses. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or across the kitchen table), silage quality and hygiene should be subjects of conversation.

By Renato Schmidt, Ph.D. and Bob Charley, Ph.D.

Making top quality silages means starting with high-quality forage crops in the field. The ensiling process then relies on efficient conversion of sugars to acids – mainly lactic acid – under anaerobic conditions, to produce a stable, acidic material. Acids are produced by lactic acid bacteria either naturally coming from the field or added as microbial inoculants, to ensure a dominant population of efficient, effective bacteria. There are a number of microbes that can otherwise dominate, potentially causing significant spoilage.

Bob Charley

Below are a few questions to help focus on and understand potential issues, specifically with clostridia and yeasts in silages.

 

1) What issues can clostridia cause in silages?

Clostridia are in soils and manure, and can contaminate crops in the field. In silage, they grow anaerobically and can ferment sugars and lactic acid to butyric acid and degrade proteins to produce biogenic amines and ammonia. The end result of a clostridial silage fermentation is a foul-smelling silage that is difficult to feed and can cause health and reproductive issues. In addition, some clostridia can carry through into the milk and even cause problems in cheese making.

Ask your nutritionist about how to avoid getting silages spoiled by clostridial growth to help minimize production, health and reproduction issues in your herd.

 

Renato Schmidt

 

 

2) If clostridia are anaerobic, why do they sometimes occur in aerobically unstable silages?

Air penetrates the silage mass during feedout and is utilized by aerobic bugs, e.g. yeasts, that can grow on sugars and lactic acid in silage. The consumption of oxygen in these niche spots can subsequently restore anaerobic conditions that, along with increased pH due to lactic acid consumption by the yeasts, allows clostridia to become active and grow.

Discuss how to prevent aerobic growth of yeasts during feedout, and how to manage your silages to minimize aerobic spoilage.

 

3) What causes aerobic spoilage?

Yeasts that grow on sugars and/ or lactic acid are the initiators of virtually all heating (aerobic spoilage) events in silages. In the presence of air (oxygen), yeasts grow, generating heat, causing significant energy losses and consuming lactic acid, raising silage pH. This allows opportunistic microbes (bacilli, molds, listeria, clostridia) to become active and grow, consuming nutrients, generating more heat and potentially producing toxins. Preventing yeast growth is key to minimizing spoilage, maximizing the quality, and quantity, of silages available to feed.

Review your records to see if you have a history of heating events, especially in crops prone to aerobic spoilage (eg. corn, HMC).

4) What can be done to inhibit or reduce the growth of yeasts?

Make sure the crop is ensiled at the recommended stage of maturity, DM content and chop length. Utilize an approved inoculant to improve aerobic stability. Pack all silages and HMC crops tight to squeeze out trapped air, cover and seal as soon as each silo is filled. During storage, monitor condition of the cover and patch holes as necessary as soon as possible.

Review good silage management practices and set realistically achievable goals for key parameters (DM, chop length, packing density, etc.).

 

5) What can you do if you can’t afford to dispose of silage that did not ferment well?

Feeding spoiled silage needs to be managed very carefully. Moldy or obviously spoiled patches should be pitched out. If the whole silage mass did not ferment properly, dilute with other feedstuffs and/or consider specific components/additives that may help. Silages with a high level of butyric acid should not be fed to pregnant or transition cows, and feeding to other milking cows should be managed so that butyric acid intake is no higher than 50 grams per head on a daily basis.

Work with your nutritionist to correctly sample your feeds to obtain accurate test results to help manage any issues and find the specific cause of the problem.

 

FYI

Renato Schmidt (left), Ph.D., is Forage Products Specialist with Lallemand Animal Nutrition. Contact him via e-mail: rschmidt@lallemand.com or phone: 402-850-8089.

Bob Charley, Ph.D., is Forage Products Manager with Lallemand Animal Nutrition. Contact him via e-mail: bcharley@lallemand.com or phone: 414-336-9549

For more information, visit www.Biotal.com.

 

CSI-Dairy: A mysterious ‘positive’ test

Numerous ‘culprits’ exist on dairy farms, robbing herd performance and injuring the dairy’s bottom line. Identifying and arresting the offender isn’t always easy, and often requires a full investigation, gathering and analyzing evidence on the farm and in the lab. This mystery reveals how a small detail can open the door to a ‘hot’ problem.

By Norm Stewart, D.V.M., M.S.

Dr. Norm Stewart is a dairy technical services veterinarian for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.

Ed Smith, owner of A Plus Dairy, worked diligently with his veterinarian, Dr. Heartly, for more than 20 years, developing and implementing residue prevention and treatment protocols for his dairy. They knew the harm a single positive milk or meat residue test could cause the dairy’s reputation and business, in addition to the dairy industry’s high-level of consumer confidence.

With recent public attention to the issue rising, Ed reminded his employees to adhere to residue prevention and treatment protocols, and all other on-farm protocols to produce wholesome products. Dr. Heartly oversaw all protocol development, and together they conducted on-farm training, so all employees knew and understood the protocols.

Incident

Then, one day, a cull cow tested positive for antibiotic residue. Ed called Dr. Heartly in disbelief. He was sure it had to be a mistake, since they always observed the milk and meat withdrawal periods. Dr. Heartly agreed to meet with Ed, review the records and begin his own investigation.

Physical evidence

Dr. Heartly and Ed reviewed their treatment protocols and records for the cows treated that week. In addition to the “positive” cow, they noticed 11 other cows received a particular antibiotic that day, and a total of 18 had received it that week.

A review of the records supported Ed’s belief employees had administered proper dosage according to the product label, and meat and milk withdrawals times were observed.

Drug inventory records confirmed the correct amount of product was used. All product was properly labeled and inventoried. There have been no positive bulk tank milk tests for the antibiotic – or any product – in the last eight years.

Dr. Heartly visited with the two workers who treated the 18 cows. They confirmed the cow in question received the correct dose, outlined in the treatment protocol. The remaining 17 cows treated that week re-entered the milking line following their respective milk withhold periods.

Dr. Heartly observed employees administer antibiotics, as well as other products. He noted that proper restraint for the animals wasn’t always adequate.

Laboratory evidence

Dr. Heartly talked to the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service personnel. They  confirmed the cow, selected randomly, tested positive – greater than 4.0 ppm in the liver – for violative residues of the antibiotic.

Dr. Heartly also contacted the antibiotic manufacturer to ask that pharmacovigilance records be checked to see if they received any complaints of animals testing positive at processing for the antibiotic. No such complaints for tissue or milk residues were on record.

The culprit

Following a thorough review of the physical and laboratory evidence, Dr. Heartly and Ed concluded this one-time antibiotic tissue residue occurred inadvertently, due to improper animal restraint, thereby leading to improper administration of the antibiotic. Dr. Heartly hypothesized the cow was able to have enough movement when restrained, whereby the product was accidentally administered intramuscularly, not subcutaneously, as labeled by the manufacturer. This could have caused a longer meat withdrawal than the labeled prescribed.

Recommendations

Dr. Heartly retrained all employees in animal-restraint protocols for each class of animal, by location, including calves in hutches, calves in large pens, lactating cows, dry cows, and others. The on-hands training helped  employees maintain and build their confidence, in addition to maintaining animal and employee safety by properly and humanely restraining animals.

He also stressed that if an employee believed they incorrectly administered a product, they should tell the manager, so it can be documented and dealt with to avoid an inadvertent milk or meat residue.

The extra attention to detail gave everyone more confidence another drug residue problem could be avoided.

FYI

• Dr. Norm Stewart is a dairy technical services veterinarian for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health. Contact him by phone: 815-479-8872 or e-mail: norman.stewart@sp.intervet.com.


Each month, DairyBusiness Communications will check the case files of lead dairy  ‘investigators’ to uncover  another ‘CSI-Dairy’ mystery. Episodes are archived at www.dairybusiness.com.


Conversations: Ask your veterinarian & nutritionist about proper hydration

As the temperature goes up, are cows going down? As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), one conversation should lead to a better understanding of an issue that might be begging for intervention.

By Mike Bettle, B.Sc. Hons.

Your cows can’t talk, but weakness and lethargy may be signs every body cell is missing an important component – water.

Mike Bettle, B.Sc. Hons. (Animal Physiology and Nutrition), is dairy technical support for TechMix North America. Contact him via e-mail: MikeBettle@TechMixInc.com.

While dehydration can occur in any season, we typically associate it with hot weather. Now that temperatures are slowly on the rise, it may be time to have a conversation about hydration strategies before signs such as body shrink, lower milk production, loss of appetite and, in severe cases, metabolic acidosis, impact your herd. Following are some questions and ideas to discuss with your veterinarian and nutritionist.

1) What’s the main contributor to dehydration?

Dehydration can be defined as a reduction or deficiency in the amount of water required for health/normal biological function. Anytime a cow is challenged, from disease or dramatic environmental changes, she undergoes some level of stress. Heat, humidity, surgery, transportation, freshening and health challenges – are all stressful events that happen  frequently on the modern dairy. All these challenges cause a cow to change her eating and drinking habits which may lead to her consuming less water than normal, or certainly less than  she needs to maintain good health and high production levels. Other contributing factors to dehydration include scouring and ingestion of toxins from moldy feeds.

Monitor eating and drinking habits to identify any changes, and ask your veterinarian/nutritionist about ways  to counter such stressful conditions on your operations.

2)  How does a cow’s body respond when she isn’t taking in enough fluids?

Mature cows carry 50%-60% of their total body weight in fluids and are unique in that their rumen can serve as a reservoir for water. Body fluids carry and distribute nutrients and disease combating agents throughout the body, they help dilute and eliminate wastes and toxins, and  keeping their levels in homeostasis is essential for both good health and production. When stressed or challenged, the cows body calls on these reserves to alleviate the potential damages of these challenges. For a cow to produce 1 lb. of milk it takes nutrients from nearly 400 lbs. of blood circulating through the udder. When a cow is dehydrated, blood loses its capacity to function properly and fails to efficiently carry nutrients around the body. This sets up the cow, especially at freshening, to succumb to a variety of metabolic diseases such as milk fever, hypocalcaemia and ketosis.

Ask your veterinarian/nutritionist if your cows could experience other dangerous health conditions due to dehydration.

3) Will my cows actually “shrink” if they don’t stay properly hydrated?

Cows severely challenged from disease – or perhaps have elevated body temperatures (as during periods of heat stress) – often shrink or dehydrate in excess of 10%  of their body weight. Shrink is due to fluids being pulled from tissues and the blood, to be used for other vital functions. This degree of dehydration can be life threatening, and procedures such as intravenous fluid therapy and oral fluid rumen supplementation procedure should be initiated right away. By paying close attention to your herd this level of severe dehydration can usually be avoided.

Ask your veterinarian/nutritionist about the dangers of excessive fluid loss and increased nutrient demands that are incurred after calving or during off-feed events and heat stress.

4) How can I tell if a cow is dehydrated?

Other than body shrink, there are a number of indications that suggest a cow may be experiencing some level of dehydration.

• Reduced feed intake

• Sunken eyes

• Drop in milk production

• Low energy

• Increased respiration rate

• Sluggish body movement

• Reduced ability to respond to vaccines and treatments

• Lower immune response

Think about the impact this type of loss can have on the health of your cows and your dairy business.

5) How do I get a cow back to proper hydration status?

Be sure to always practice good cow cooling husbandry in hot weather, have plenty of clean water easily accessible, and be observant of fresh cows and of any signs of sickness in cows throughout the herd. For most events a rehydration product that provides energy-balancing electrolytes, vitamins and energy sources work quickly and well. Most of these treatment products can be administered either through a water application or applied directly to feed. Most veterinarians and nutritionists recommend stocking rehydration products at all times and especially during periods where heat stress or other dehydration stressors could be an issue.

Ask about having rehydration products on hand and what you can do to promote consistent water intake.


CSI-Dairy: Milk quality

A cow-side investigation into a quest for higher milk quality

Numerous ‘culprits’ exist on dairy farms, robbing herd performance and injuring the dairy’s bottom line. Identifying and arresting the offender isn’t always easy, and often requires a full investigation, gathering and analyzing evidence on the farm and in the lab. One mystery that often takes a team of investigators to uncover is the search for improvements and necessary changes for increased milk quality, productivity and profitability.

By Kevin Zieser

Ron Abing didn’t call me because of a sudden spike in his somatic cell count (SCC), a cow down with severe coliform mastitis or a hot tank of milk. He didn’t have an immediate or serious issue to address overnight. He simply realized his dairy’s average SCC of 300,000 was no longer good enough.

Kevin Zieser is a quality milk manager with Pfizer Animal Health

A few days after our initial discussion, I sat in a conference room at Majestic View Dairy in Lancaster, Wis., with Ron and key members of his herd health team, including his veterinarian, herd manager and  daughters (both of whom help manage the dairy). We conducted a Maximum Milk Quality, or Q-Max, evaluation to investigate what was contributing to his merely average performance and how to turn the numbers around.

A break in the case

During one of our discussions, Ron admitted, “I don’t like stripping. I refused to strip when I was part of the milking team.”

After further questioning, it became apparent the milking routines at Majestic View were incomplete and, at times, haphazardly applied in the parlor.

• Incorporate stripping into routine

Ron needed help establishing a complete and consistent milking routine in the parlor. As a team, we developed a new milking routine, which included stripping as the cows entered the milking parlor to allow for teat-end stimulation and milk let-down. The routine also included the usual steps, such as dipping with an antiseptic dip, wiping and ensuring adequate prep-to-attachment lag time (90 to 120 seconds). By adding stripping to the routine, Ron’s milking team saw a 30- to 40- second improvement in attachment time per cow. Shorter attachment time translated into better teat end condition.

• Train staff for consistency

A new routine is only as good as the staff that carries it out. It was important to train Ron’s staff on the new routine and make sure milkers understood the reason for the changes. We developed a comprehensive, bilingual training program that not only taught milkers the new routine, but also educated them on the anatomy of the cow and signs of mastitis, why milk let-down is important, and the economics and the importance of milk quality. Their understanding and buy-in to the parlor routine helped ensure consistency across people and across time.

After reviewing and revising the milking procedures, Ron saw a decrease in his average SCC from 300,000 to 264,000. Case solved. But the investigation continued.

Public enemy No. 1

Although improvement was evident, Ron still wasn’t satisfied with his numbers. Culture records indicated there was an issue with environmental mastitis, showing strains of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and coliform bacteria were causing a majority of the mastitis cases. And, looking at the decade-old facility, in tandem with the cultures, it was apparent the facility was in need of an update, as were bedding and environmental management practices.

Ron and I knew it was time to call in reinforcements for the case, and Dr. Nigel Cook, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, arrived on the scene to conduct a full facility assessment.

As suspected, the dated and worn mattresses and facility management were exposing the cows to environmental bacteria and contributing to mastitis incidence. Additionally, the stall design was compounding issues with lameness and general cow discomfort. The evidence suggested addressing these challenges would uncover the true solution to his high SCC.

After several months of planning, Ron and his family decided to execute a full facility redesign, including a new sand separation system. Following the project and management changes, the dairy reached an all-time low SCC of 143,000 in December 2010.

Through the help of advisers and an internal team of herd managers and milkers, Majestic View Dairy has seen great improvements in milk quality, production and profitability. Ron continues to work with his herd veterinarian to keep milk quality top of mind on the dairy operation.

FYI

• Kevin Zieser is a quality milk manager with  Pfizer Animal Health, working with dairy producers to improve mastitis management. Contact your Pfizer Animal Health representative with questions on your milk quality.

Learn more about Ron Abing’s quest for higher-quality milk at www.milkqualityfocus.com.

Each month, DairyBusiness Communications will check the case files of lead dairy ‘investigators’ to uncover another ‘CSI-Dairy’ mystery. Episodes are archived at www.dairybusiness.com.

CSI-Dairy: A cow-side investigation into feed efficiency & rumen health

Numerous ‘culprits’ exist on dairy farms, robbing herd performance and injuring the dairy’s bottom line. Identifying and arresting the offender isn’t always easy, and often requires a full investigation, gathering and analyzing evidence on the farm and in the lab. One mystery that stumped a dairy producer was evidence of Sub-Acute Ruminal Acidosis (SARA) in an otherwise healthy herd.

By Jerry Weigel

“It’s the strangest thing,” said Don, a dairy producer in southern Wisconsin. “My team has observed symptoms of SARA in the herd, but I can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong.”

I was stumped as well. SARA has been observed in beef feedlot situations by many nutritionists, but in lactating dairy cattle it is a bit controversial.

The investigation

I asked Don all the normal questions relative to the “whys” of low levels of acidosis.

First, I asked about his production, dry matter intake (DMI) and feed efficiency (FE), and learned he was not pleased with the herd’s FE. When we discussed how his team attempted to maximize DMI, I was quick to question the word “maximize.” I told Don I prefer to use the phrase “optimize DMI,” and I believe it is a term nutritionists and producers should use more often.

After learning Don was not pleased with his herd’s FE, I began to wonder if that was a source of his SARA troubles. In my opinion, there could be an interrelationship between SARA and FE. In a time of marginal economics, FE becomes very important as we try to reduce feed costs while increasing the profitability of milk production. As our conversation led back to the relationship between SARA and FE, we discussed a few key points:

Unless the cow is losing body weight, higher feed efficiency means more feed is being converted to milk.

FE and DMI will enable us to determine how well the cows are utilizing the ration.

FE can be improved by reducing other demands for energy or protein.

If the ration is not properly balanced and managed, the ration will contribute to ruminal acidosis (like SARA) and significant reductions in FE, which is especially important.

Improving FE can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus excreted in the manure, a key issue in a manure management program.

I could tell we might be working toward the solution. Then there was another clue – Don mentioned his milk urea nitrogen (MUN) was lower than normal. I explained this could fall right in with the FE, as low MUN can be attributed to questionable carbohydrates, such as poor quality fiber in corn silage and reduced protein conversion efficiency. Another theory is that a too-fragile fiber source that maximizes feed intake could force an increase in water intake, thus having a dilution effect on MUN.

I reminded Don “more” is not always better. We often see high feed intakes on rations with elevated fragile fiber sources. However, rapid passage of the total mixed ration (TMR) can hinder ruminal health. This can reduce a dairy’s FE and, subsequently, its profitability. The rumen must have effective fiber for optimum rumination and microbial digestion.

The follow-up

I felt good that we had found the SARA culprit, and we reformulated the TMR to optimum formulation for sustaining ruminal health. I also put together a list of good management tips around maintaining FE and keeping SARA at bay. Some of these target tips are:

Monitor actual feed intake, pay more attention to feed refusals and improve the record keeping of feed refusals. Put together a budget targeted at a certain percent (i.e., 4.0%), and then base it on a theoretical feed intake of 50 lbs. of dry matter. The targeted feed intake should be 48 lbs. of dry matter.

Correct for milk components, as more nutrients are needed for milk fat and protein than for fluid milk.

Pay more attention to feed bunk management, feed trucks and wagons for feed spillage.

Watch TMR moisture levels and adjust for them on a more routine basis.

Mystery solved

When I chatted with Don a few months later, he was in good spirits. Not only had his SARA situation gone away, but FE had gone from 1.3 to 1.6, with a nice improvement in income over feed cost (IOFC). I reminded him it is important to pay attention to fiber quality and rely more on fiber effectiveness than simply adding more corn to the TMR. However, I also reminded him SARA is somewhat of a management disease, and he must constantly monitor the herd for its symptoms.

FYI

Jerry Weigel is the manager of nutrition and technical service for BASF Plant Science. Contact him via e-mail:
gerald.weigel@basf.com; phone: 919-659-3956; or visit www.nutridense.com. Sign up to receive a NutriDense Silage technical dairy e-newsletter, Have You Herd, at www.nutridense.com/newsletter-signup.

Each month, Eastern DairyBusiness will check the case files of lead dairy ‘investigators’ to uncover another ‘CSI-Dairy’ mystery. Episodes will be archived at www.dairybusiness.com.


Conversations: Ask your nutritionists about trace minerals and SCC

There’s increasing recognition dairy cattle nutrition has an impact on udder health and, subsequently, milk quality. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation should lead to a better understanding of this relationship.

By Dr. Mike Socha

As somatic cell count (SCC) limits become more stringent, producers continue to look for opportunities to improve milk quality. The role of trace mineral nutrition in lowering SCC is one area receiving renewed interest, as research is well-documented when considering the positive impact improved trace mineral status has on mammary health and immune competence. Dairy producers and their nutritionists have many things to consider as they evaluate solutions to improve milk quality.

1) Which trace minerals are important?

Zinc, copper, manganese and selenium each play critical roles in skin and mammary health, somatic cell count function and disease resistance (immunity). For example, all four minerals help to protect cellular membranes from damage by removing superoxide radicals (free radicals) from the body. Superoxide radicals are normal by-products of cellular protection against infection. However, these radicals disrupt cellular membranes and cause cellular damage, leaving the mammary gland more susceptible to infection, scarring and lost milk production.

Zinc helps maintain the health and integrity of skin due to its role in cellular repair and replacement. It also plays a critical role in formation of the keratin plug in the teat canal, which traps bacteria and prevents it from moving up into the mammary gland.

Copper affects the killing ability of white blood cells such as neutrophils (somatic cells) to kill pathogens. It is also required for antibody development and lymphocyte (white blood cell) replication.

Manganese helps improve immune function through enhanced macrophage (white blood cell) killing ability. Macrophages are one of the types of somatic cells released into the mammary gland in the highest concentration to help protect against intramammary infections (IMI).

Selenium plays a vital role in immune response and has an associated role with vitamin E in protecting the mammary gland. Selenium also allows for more rapid neutrophil (somatic cell) influx into milk following an IM bacterial challenge and increased cellular kill of ingested bacteria by neutrophils.

Ask your nutritionist to monitor the levels of each mineral being fed, and determine whether the source of each trace mineral is highly bioavailable (easily absorbed). Quality and performance do matter, and not all trace mineral products are the same.

2) When is trace mineral supplementation most effective?

In a summary of 14 trials, research showed feeding a combination of highly bioavailable complexed zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt, beginning in the dry period and continuing through lactation decreased SCC by 25%. In comparison, in the trials when the same complexed trace minerals were fed only during the lactation period (not pre-partum), SCC only decreased by 8%.

Ask your nutritionist to investigate data on this kind of performance, and discuss how feeding highly available forms of trace minerals during the dry period and throughout lactation can positively impact SCC, mammary health and immune function.

3) What role does stress play in the development of mastitis?

Stress can be a major player in the development of mastitis. Research at Ohio State University showed the times of greatest risk for mastitis were at dry-off and again at calving, both times of significant stress.

Stress causes an increase in systemic (whole body) inflammation that may put an unnecessary drain on energy reserves and/or on the immune system. When an animal becomes stressed, cortisol is released into the blood stream as a means of reprogramming the animal’s metabolism to fight the stressor. However, that cortisol release ultimately changes the animal’s metabolism and the nutrients needed by the immune system (immune cells) to fight infection are redirected toward escaping the stressful event or maintaining organ function to survive the stress challenge.

Stress also changes how an animal absorbs and retains nutrients, such as trace minerals. Research at Colorado State University demonstrated that the negative effect of stress on absorption and retention of trace minerals in cattle was minimized when trace minerals were fed in the complexed form rather than the ordinary inorganic form. This means that more nutrients will be available to immune cells before and after stressful events to help fight mammary infections.

Ask your nutritionist to evaluate potential cattle stressors on your dairy. Discuss how those stressors might be impacting nutrient metabolism and trace mineral absorption and retention. Discuss what form of trace minerals are being fed to optimize immune function, helping fight mammary infections.

FYI

Dr. Mike Socha is the dairy research team leader at Zinpro Corporation. Contact him via phone: 800-445-6145; or e-mail zinpro@zinpro.com.

Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about forage consistency

Feed ingredients and forages can be nutritionally volatile, creating significant starch variation in a dairy ration. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation should lead to a better understanding of this volatility, and how managing it can greatly improve the efficiency of a ration.

By Kevin Leahy

The stability of a herd’s ration directly affects milk production stability and efficiency. Here are some questions dairy producers should consider when evaluating ration consistency, and discuss with their herd nutritionist to consider options to improve the consistency.

1) What are some of the causes of nutritional volatility in a ration?

Nutritional volatility in a ration can be caused by a number of things. Some of the main causes can be a change in the type of feed ingredients being used, the harvest/storage/fermentation of forages included, and even the genetics of the forage crop. Often, these variations can be extreme even within the same bunker or truckload of feed, further adding to the volatility. Forage and feedstuff starch digestibility can vary greatly in both the speed of which it is digested, and where – specifically – in the digestive tract it is broken down. The key is knowing how to manage these differences to reduce negative “volatile” effects.

Consider factors that could change content within a ration. Ask your nutritionist if more frequent tests of ration content would be beneficial.

2) Are there signs that might indicate there is a challenge in a particular ration?

Yes, there can be many signs of trouble. The real challenge is realizing that it is in the ration, and doing so soon enough to avoid a train-wreck. One of the more common, short-term signs may include abnormal fluctuations in herd production – especially in butterfat composition of the milk. Longer-term effects might cause reduced reproductive performance. Unfortunately, the latter often occurs long after the problem began.

Carefully review milk component and production fluctuations and work with your nutritionist to evaluate how these may align with forage input changes in the ration.

3) What options are there for measuring starch content of a ration?

Measuring starch content in a ration has been an important step for nutritionists to evaluate inputs to a ration. Measuring crude – or total tract starch digestibility – can be done very effectively by sending feed samples in to a laboratory. These tests indicate the total amount of starch digested in the rumen and the lower gastrointestinal tract. More recently, we have gained technology allowing a nutritionist to test and balance starch content digested specifically  in the rumen.

Ask your nutritionist for the latest insight and advice on various starch measurements.

4) How should test results and insights be used?

Knowing the starch content and expected speed of digestibility in the rumen is important, because of the potential effect on rumen parameters. For example, pH and the digestibility of other nutrients – and the resulting effect on milk production and component yield – can help guide ration balancing decisions that will allow for more optimal nutrient management. This may even help identify ways ration ingredient costs can be reduced or substituted with less expensive inputs, without sacrificing the nutrition needs for production goals.

Spend time with your nutritionist carefully evaluating your herd performance goals, and how ration changes might help achieve them – while still improving economic efficiency.

5) What can a producer expect as a result of more precisely managed starch?

When rations can be calculated to maintain optimum starch digestibility, improved feed efficiency and stable milk production can be more easily attained. From an efficiency perspective, rations can be developed that maximize production without wasting expensive starch sources, like corn. Or, alternative, less-costly feed ingredient options can be considered if you know what their digestible rumen starch might be, and how the ration consistency can be maintained.

Explore your options for various feed ingredients to help reduce ration cost. Working closely with your nutritionist to better understand rumen starch digestibility might help identify alternative, convenient and less-costly options that would allow you to maximize production goals and further minimize feed costs.

FYI

Kevin Leahy is technical services manager for Calibrate™ technologies.  Contact him via phone at 877-595-1361or e-mail: ktleahy@calibratetechnologies.com.

Miss a 2010 Conversation?

Find these ‘Conservations’ columns at www.dairybusiness.com.

• January: Direct-fed microbials

• February: Lagoon management

• March: Corn silage quality

• April: BVD management

• May: Heifer management

• June: Udder health

• July: Pregnancy detection

• August: A TMR audit

• September: Transition cow nutrition and management

• October: Alfalfa seed selection

• November: Energy status at transition


Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about forage consistency

Feed ingredients and forages can be nutritionally volatile, creating significant starch variation in a dairy ration. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation should lead to a better understanding of this volatility, and how managing it can greatly improve the efficiency of a ration.

By Kevin Leahy

The stability of a herd’s ration directly affects milk production stability and efficiency. Here are some questions dairy producers should consider when evaluating ration consistency, and discuss with their herd nutritionist to consider options to improve the consistency.

1) What are some of the causes of nutritional volatility in a ration?

Nutritional volatility in a ration can be caused by a number of things. Some of the main causes can be a change in the type of feed ingredients being used, the harvest/storage/fermentation of forages included, and even the genetics of the forage crop. Often, these variations can be extreme even within the same bunker or truckload of feed, further adding to the volatility. Forage and feedstuff starch digestibility can vary greatly in both the speed of which it is digested, and where – specifically – in the digestive tract it is broken down. The key is knowing how to manage these differences to reduce negative “volatile” effects.

Consider factors that could change content within a ration. Ask your nutritionist if more frequent tests of ration content would be beneficial.


2) Are there signs that might indicate there is a challenge in a particular ration?

Yes, there can be many signs of trouble. The real challenge is realizing that it is in the ration, and doing so soon enough to avoid a train-wreck. One of the more common, short-term signs may include abnormal fluctuations in herd production – especially in butterfat composition of the milk. Longer-term effects might cause reduced reproductive performance. Unfortunately, the latter often occurs long after the problem began.

Carefully review milk component and production fluctuations and work with your nutritionist to evaluate how these may align with forage input changes in the ration.


3) What options are there for measuring starch content of a ration?

Measuring starch content in a ration has been an important step for nutritionists to evaluate inputs to a ration. Measuring crude – or total tract starch digestibility – can be done very effectively by sending feed samples in to a laboratory. These tests indicate the total amount of starch digested in the rumen and the lower gastrointestinal tract. More recently, we have gained technology allowing a nutritionist to test and balance starch content digested specifically  in the rumen.

Ask your nutritionist for the latest insight and advice on various starch measurements.

4) How should test results and insights be used?

Knowing the starch content and expected speed of digestibility in the rumen is important, because of the potential effect on rumen parameters. For example, pH and the digestibility of other nutrients – and the resulting effect on milk production and component yield – can help guide ration balancing decisions that will allow for more optimal nutrient management. This may even help identify ways ration ingredient costs can be reduced or substituted with less expensive inputs, without sacrificing the nutrition needs for production goals.

Spend time with your nutritionist carefully evaluating your herd performance goals, and how ration changes might help achieve them – while still improving economic efficiency.

5) What can a producer expect as a result of more precisely managed starch?

When rations can be calculated to maintain optimum starch digestibility, improved feed efficiency and stable milk production can be more easily attained. From an efficiency perspective, rations can be developed that maximize production without wasting expensive starch sources, like corn. Or, alternative, less-costly feed ingredient options can be considered if you know what their digestible rumen starch might be, and how the ration consistency can be maintained.

Explore your options for various feed ingredients to help reduce ration cost. Working closely with your nutritionist to better understand rumen starch digestibility might help identify alternative, convenient and less-costly options that would allow you to maximize production goals and further minimize feed costs.

FYI

Kevin Leahy is technical services manager for Calibrate™ technologies.  Contact him via phone at 877-595-1361or e-mail: ktleahy@calibratetechnologies.com.

Miss a 2010 Conversation?

Find these ‘Conservations’ columns at www.dairybusiness.com.

■ January: Direct-fed microbials

■ February: Lagoon management

■ March: Corn silage quality

■ April: BVD management

■ May: Heifer management

■ June: Udder health

■ July: Pregnancy detection

■ August: A TMR audit

■ September: Transition cow nutrition and management

■ October: Alfalfa seed selection

■ November: Energy status at transition


Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about energy status at transition

Too frequently, transition cows show up in the ‘negative’ column due to metabolic disorders, production and reproduction problems. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), the conversation should focus on energy balance to help cows make a ‘positive’ transition.

By Ken Sanderson, D.V. M.

Every dairy cow experiences negative energy balance as she transitions from dry cow to lactation. Her lactation can be adversely impacted by the severity of the energy shortage. An energy shortage can affect peak milk, total milk and fertility. How quickly the cow recovers from negative energy balance, how quickly she returns to positive energy balance, is what matters. The faster the return, the better for milk production and reproduction.

1) Why does an energy shortage occur at calving?

The energy shortage occurs because a natural lag exists between the dairy cow’s need to generate large quantities of energy for milk production at calving and her ability to eat enough feed to meet this energy need. On a biological level, we know that how well the cow coordinates energy metabolism and glucose (energy) generation is a key determinate of milk, production and reproductive efficiency.

Ask your nutritionist for his/her opinion on the energy status of your herd.

2) Is all the cow’s energy truly produced in the liver?

Unlike monogastrics – poultry, pigs, etc. – the ruminant dairy cow absorbs very little energy though its gastro-intestinal (GI) wall. Instead, her liver plays a key role in coordinating energy metabolism. By that, I mean the production of glucose from 1) what we call gluconeogenic precursors, basically the various items that can be used to create glucose, and 2) from adipose tissue i.e. fat. Responsibility falls on the liver to coordinate the uptake of the various energy substrates, their metabolism and their export to body tissues. In early lactation, as the cow mobilizes body fat reserves for energy, there is a risk that fat will begin to accumulate in the liver. As fat accumulates, it becomes more challenging for the liver to efficiently coordinate energy production, and the tendency exists for the cow to favor the production of ketone bodies instead of glucose.

Ask your nutritionist to discuss ways of monitoring your herd for signs of problems with ketone body production as a result of fat accumulation in their livers.

3) What are signs of optimal liver function?

One of the obvious signs of optimal liver performance is the absence of metabolic problems. We know the vast majority of metabolic problems occur during the transition period. These would include clinical and subclinical ketosis, metritis, fatty liver, displaced abomasums and/or mastitis. If metabolic problems exist, the first step is to review herd management practices with your advisor(s). In an effort to understand the extent of metabolic challenge in the herd, nutritionists and veterinarians will run tests for non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) pre-calving and beta hydroxy butyric acid (BHBA) post-calving. These tests provide good indicators as to whether or not the cow’s energy status is compromised by a build-up of fat in the liver.

Review with your nutritionist and veterinarian herd management practices to see if opportunities for improvement might exist.

4) How damaging is fat accumulation in the liver?

Well, even a small build-up of fat can decrease the liver’s metabolic functions and impact overall energy metabolism in early lactation. Liver fat accumulation generally is categorized as normal (<1% liver fat on a wet basis), mild (1-5%), moderate (5-10%) and severe (> 10%). With today’s genetic advancements for milk production, we know that virtually every cow faces energy challenges in early lactation. That means a mild-to-moderate level of fat accumulation is practically unavoidable. From industry surveys, we know approximately 50% of our commercial dairy cows have mild or moderate fatty livers, and many of these cows are struggling to manage to keep ketone body production (BHBA) at a safe level. Even if a cow has a mild level of liver fat build up, her ability to manage energy needs is significantly impaired.

Review with your nutritionist the history of metabolic problems – clinical and subclinical – on your dairy.

5) What can be done to protect the cow’s liver?

The first step is to make sure the basics of good herd management are in place. All cows should be well managed, comfortable and fed a well-formulated ration. Next, be sure an optimum level of rumen-protected choline is in the ration pre- and post-calving to ensure the transport of fat out of the liver, thereby avoiding the metabolic challenges related to poor liver function. Without rumen protection of the choline, little, if any, will reach the small intestine and be absorbed for use by the cow.

Ask your nutritionist about the use of a rumen-protected choline.

FYI

• Ken Sanderson, D.V. M. is Global Manager of Technical Service & Business Development for Balchem. Contact him via phone: 845-326-5627; e-mail: KSanderson@Balchem.com.

Conversations: Ask your nutritionist about transition cow nutrition and management

Managing the transition period through proven nutritional avenues is the first step to ensuring your cows successfully join the milking herd. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen), transition management continues to receive great attention because this period – three weeks prepartum to three weeks after calving – has the greatest and most clearly defined impact on cow performance and health.

By Elliot Block

Better understanding and proper formulation of the ration throughout the transition period can help you keep cows eating, healthy and performing optimally when joining the milking string.

1) What behavioral changes take place during the transition period?

Dry matter intake (DMI) decreases significantly seven to 10 days before calving. In addition, nutrient requirements, hormone levels and rumen function shift dramatically. Due to these physiological and biological changes, it is imperative that the transition ration delivers adequate energy as DMI declines, helping cows reach a positive energy balance as quickly as possible after calving.

Proactively monitor behavioral changes to help identify cows going off feed or that are getting sick. Talk with your nutritionist about how to deliver optimal energy levels in the transition cow diet.

2) How can other ration changes prepare transition cows for the upcoming lactation?

An effective nutrition program can help counteract the multitude of changes that occur during the transition period. Balancing rations for dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD), feeding an effective energy source and offering high-quality protein by delivering the optimal amino acid profile are all proven practices for helping the transition cow successfully join the milking string. When the nutritional needs of the transition period are managed effectively, cows have the ability to remain healthy, productive and profitable.

Discuss the ration with your nutritionist and why each piece is important to the transition cow diet.

3) What role does DCAD balancing play in the transition period?

The DCAD equation measures the levels of four macrominerals in the diet: potassium and sodium, positively charged cations, and chloride and sulfur, negatively charged anions. Research confirms lowering DCAD prepartum to -8 to -12 meq/100g ration dry matter helps maintain DMI and prepare the rumen for the upcoming lactation, helping to dramatically reduce the risk of metabolic disorders and increase peak milk yields. Postpartum DCAD levels should be raised to +35 to +45 meq/100g dry matter to increase DMI and reach milk and component production potential.

Ask your nutritionist about DCAD balancing and its benefits for your herd. If your rations are not currently balanced for DCAD, a forage test can help determine current levels of the four macrominerals in the DCAD equation to help you make educated decisions about DCAD balancing.

4) Beyond my nutrition program what management factors lead to a successful transition group?

Minimizing stress throughout the transition period is critical. Focusing on the following management areas can help keep cows comfortable and eating throughout the transition:

• Maximize cow comfort to encourage lying down, minimizing time spent standing and walking.

• Provide clean, dry and comfortable beds, lots or corrals.

• Minimize stressors by moderating pen densities and implementing heat-stress abatement practices.

• Monitor urine pH and DMI as two of the best indicators of transition cow problems.

Ask your veterinarian and nutritionist to help custom design fresh cow monitoring and treatment programs.

FYI

• Elliot Block is Senior Manager, Technology, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition. Contact him via phone: 609-279-7517; e-mail: Elliot.block@churchdwight.com; or website: www.AHDairy.com.

• Access Arm & Hammer’s online newsletterwww.PeakReportOnline.com.

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