Production Pointers: Feeding


July 29, 2009



Four things you may not know about EFAs


Research continues to demonstrate the critical function essential fatty acids (EFAs) have in improving reproductive performance. Here are four facts about EFAs and why they’re important to your herd:

• Cows do not produce EFAs naturally. EFAs, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs, cannot be biologically produced by the cow using other available nutrients. The only way EFAs can be supplied to the cow is through supplementing the diet.

• Rumen microbes transform EFAs. Traditional feedstuffs do not supply enough EFAs to meet cows’ needs because rumen microbes transform free or unprotected fats. EFAs found in feedstuffs, such as roasted soybeans and flaxseed, are altered in the rumen (biohydrogenate) and most EFAs do not reach the intestine for absorption. To be effective, Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs must bypass the rumen and reach the small intestine to positively influence reproductive performance.

• EFAs influence every step of reproduction function, from hormone production through maintaining embryo viability. Linolenic acid (Omega-3) assists with prostaglandin production and fosters embryonic survival, and linoleic acid (Omega-6) promotes ovulation and sperm capacitation, aids in oviduct contraction and maintains embryo implantation.

• Cows secrete EFAs every day in milk. A cow producing 100 lbs. of milk per day secretes about 0.14 lbs., or 64 grams, of Omega-6 per day during milk production. Since cows lose most of the Omega-6 found naturally in feedstuffs through milk production, additional EFA supplementation is required to meet daily maintenance and reproductive needs.

For more about EFAs and their impact on reproduction, visit use

Source: Dr. Elliot Block, Senior Manager of Technology, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition




Evaluate dairy ration ingredient alternatives


Finding feed bargains while managing a balanced dairy ration can be a challenge. SESAME, a Windows-based program created by Ohio State animal scientists, estimates the break-even prices of up to 140 types of feedstuffs based on their nutrient content — metabolizable energy (ME), rumen degradable protein (RDP) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) — according to current market prices.

Normand St-Pierre, software developer and an OSU-Extension dairy management specialist, uses SESAME on a monthly basis to estimate break-even prices of all major commodities, and identifies feedstuffs that are significantly underpriced.

“Producers think that ruminants need corn and soybeans, and they don’t, as long as the proper nutritional requirements are met,” St-Pierre said. “Dairy cattle have a tremendous ability to use a large diversity of feed. Producers must remember, though, that it does not mean they can formulate a balanced diet using only feeds in the ‘bargain’ column.”

There are reasons that a feed might be a very good fit in a feeding program while not appearing to be a bargain, he said.

“For example, molasses is often used to reduce ingredient separation in total mixed ration,” St-Pierre said. “Molasses is also an excellent source of sugars. Some nutritionists balance rations for sugars. In those situations, molasses might not be at all overpriced.”

Dairy producers can find the latest nutritional information and feedstuffs costs in OSU Extension’s dairy newsletter at, by clicking on “Buckeye Dairy News.”

The latest version of SESAME can be downloaded at Users can try the software for free for seven days, after which the cost to register the program is $99.95. There is a version for users in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and another version for other international users. For more information, contact St-Pierre at 614-292-6507 or



Feeding sprouted wheat poses challenges

A challenging growing season has raised questions regarding feeding sprouted wheat to livestock and the potential mycotoxin results. Michigan State University has put together resources on the Michigan Dairy Review website. According to MSU’s Dave Beede, feeding recommendations for sprouted wheat are similar to “normal” wheat — the kernels must be cracked, but not ground. Introduce wheat into the ration gradually over 3 to 4 weeks, and use 10% or less of the total ration dry matter for lactating cows.  There is the added risk that sprouted or out-of-condition wheat may have mold/ mycotoxin issues from the field or while in storage.  Extreme caution is very important, even while trying to reduce ration costs, Beede said. To view feeding recommendations, visit 




Elsewhere on


The Manager: Feed Decision Making


The Manager, a special section prepared by PRO-DAIRY specialists, appears in Eastern DairyBusiness 12 times a year. In keeping with the PRO-DAIRY mission, The Manager helps strengthen the management skills of dairy producers and increase the profitability of the dairy industry. PRO-DAIRY, an educational program begun in 1988, is a joint venture of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Northeast agriservice organizations. For reprints of PRO-DAIRY’s The Manager, contact Heather Howland, 272 Morrison Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Phone: (607) 255-4478 Email:


August 2009 features include:


Welcome to the wild world of sourcing feed 

How dairy producers tackle decisions on whether to buy or grow
commodity feeds has changed a lot in the last decade

By Tom Overton and Larry Chase 


To contract or not to contract

There’s no crystal ball to help make foolproof decisions on contracting
feed. But there are tools that help improve decision making

By Tom Overton and Larry Chase 


How do I price forages?

Pricing forages? That perennial question asked by dairy producers can
be answered using any of these methods

By Tom Overton and Larry Chase 


Dairy consultant Q & A

Drawing on a wealth of experience, Corwin Holtz offers ideas on
making sound feed-buying decisions

By Eleanor Jacobs