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A pregnancy is a pregnancy, right? Or is it? Where do you place your dairy pregnancy focus? On cows that are already pregnant?  On early lactation animals? Is your biggest concern that of matching energy requirements to maximize milk production?  Is your nutrition program defeating your reproduction rate? We need to go back to the beginning of the dairy profitability story and consider what happens between the breeding and a successful pregnancy.

The Incredible Conundrum

When we talk about breeding dairy cattle, the standard benchmark is two breedings to achieve one pregnancy.  For me, baseball is the only place where achieving 50% makes you an All Star. The dairy industry needs to step up to the plate. Let’s take every opportunity to change the breeding rate to a 1to1 ratio. If that were possible, it could save both time and money while increasing the number of pregnancies in dairy herds.

What factors – that are in your control – could raise your herd pregnancy success rate? We all nod in agreement that catching heats and preventing exposure to pathogens are ways to increase our success rate.  Are we nodding in agreement and taking action?  Or are we nodding off?  And what about nutrition?

The Proposition: Nutrition has a significant role in maintaining pregnancy immediately following conception.

Causes of Early Embryonic Loss

Researchers in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming saw rises in early embryonic loss if either of the next two situations occurred:

  1. A significant decline in energy intake.
  2. Moving from stored feed to pasture.

Nutrition Indicators that Signal Problems Getting Cows Pregnant

Limitations. Every dairy farm has to deal with them.  Here are four that affect pregnancy rates.

  1. There are cows not showing heats and anestrus in early lactation
  2. Energy deficiency is the first limiting nutrient in your herd if your cows are not cycling.
  3. You or your adviser have identified a deficiency of minerals and vitamins in your ration
  4. You or your adviser have identified an excess of protein in your ration

It’s time to do something about eliminating these limiting factors.

The Sperm in the Uterus.  Take Care of It!

In cattle, the fetus does not immediately become attached to the uterus endometrium. This means that it spends several days in the lumen of the uterus. During this time, uterine secretions nourish and provide the enzymes, hormones and other metabolic factors that the fetus needs for development. These nutrients are comprised of glucose, fructose, some triglycerides and amino acids. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the developing fetus, and similar to pre-breeding, energy is probably the first limiting nutrient for fetus growth and development.

Supplement with Methionine to Prevent Pregnancy Loss

One way to improve both milk production and reproduction is to supplement rations with methionine for a lysine to methionine ratio (% of MP) of 2.8 to 1.

Researchers fed a methionine-supplemented diet to early lactation cows with 2,500 grams of metabolizable protein (MP)—6.9% of MP as lysine and 2.3% of MP as methionine. The methionine-supplemented cows had slightly less pregnancy loss following breeding than cows fed the same diet with no supplemental methionine (1.9% of MP).

How to Optimize Pregnancy Maintenance

Certain amino acids give rise to glucose as well as glycerol levels. Optimizing the amounts of and the digestion of starch is the best way to increase the glucose supply to the dairy cow.

Methionine, lysine, and histidine are considered the first three limiting amino acids in milk production and milk component levels. They also increase in uterine secretion as the embryo elongates and prepares for implantation in the uterus endometrium.

Wisconsin researchers report an increase of 14.4% for lysine, 12.4% for methionine and 11.5% for histidine in the pregnant uterus near the time of implantation compared to a non-pregnant uterus. Methionine is of particular interest in the early fetus stage because of its role in lipid metabolism and gene expression.

Current studies using DHA in lactating cows are aimed at enhancing the quality of the uterine epithelium, modifying and attenuating the release of prostaglandin F-2a and thus ensuring a higher pregnancy rate resulting from better maternal recognition of pregnancy and subsequent maintenance of pregnancy (Read more: 8 Things You MUST Know About The BLV Virus)

Get Ready to Formulate a Preconception Diet

We are well-prepared to monitor the nutrition of the pregnant animal, and to meet the needs of the milking cow, but too often we are overlooking the importance of the preconception diet!

Long before that heifer/cow is safely in calf, what she eats matters.  In fact, the right preconception diet can not only fuel fertility, but can also ensure that you get a healthier calf on board.

Not sure how to turn your dairy diet into one that’s beneficial for preconception and pregnancy? Follow these five easy steps:

  1. Commit to change. The first step to overhauling your preconception nutrition is to know exactly what you’re committing to and why. The why? Well, that’s pretty clear. You want to make the healthiest calf possible, as quickly as possible.  Your goal is to improve your current pregnancy success rate.
  2. Identify WHO needs to Change? So you’re willing to make changes.  It is important to know what change will produce the targeted result. Depending on what you have learned from an analysis of your records, you may also need to reconsider “who” is best suited to take responsibility. A veterinarian, nutritionist or feed consultant – or all three may have valuable input in overcoming pregnancy maintenance challenges.
  3. Identify WHAT needs to Change?  Even the most conscientious dairy manager may find themselves second guessing when it comes to formulating a preconception diet. Trying to scale down weight? (Extra pounds can decrease fertility.) Trying to gain weight (too thin may be having an adverse impact). Then you’ll probably have to work on quantity and quality.
  4. Get Ready to Pop a Prenatal Vitamin. No human preconception diet is complete without a prenatal supplement that’s packed with folic acid and other essential baby-making nutrients. What parallel are you using in enhancing the conditions in the uterus. Think of it as health insurance for your future calf.
  5. More feed. More often.  This isn’t the time for a hit or miss access to the feed bunk. You may want to consider trading up to the six meal solution that human pre-natal consultants advise when a woman is trying to conceive. Dairy cows should consume frequent, small meals spread out over the day.  To achieve this, we need to ensure they have good access to their ration throughout the day. This can be accomplished through the frequent delivery of feed,  frequent feed push-up, and by providing sufficient space at the feed bunk. Extensive sorting of feed should be avoided.

It’s a balancing act.  Any one of these five variables could be affecting your success. And this isn’t the entire list by any means.

The Bullvine Bottom Line –  “Better Endings Start Even Before the Beginning!”

Successful dairy operations depend on conception. It makes sense to look at nutrition that impacts that status. Despite many advances in dairy cattle breeding, there are still challenges associated with starting a successful pregnancy.  Take action now! The preconception diet can have a surprisingly significant impact. Success has to mean better than 50%.



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It is difficult to have a diet that is rich in all the components needed for healthy living. Many, including myself, turn to supplements to make up for what’s lacking in our diets. Modern food producers are looking for new ways to add nutrients to food products. This value-added is taking interesting turns in the milk production industry.

Adding supplements to food is not a new idea.

For almost 100 years, Vitamin D has been added to commercial cow’s milk in response to the rise in malnourished children and adults with insufficient amounts of this essential nutrient in their diets. Today another nutritional shortcoming of the Western diet has been identified. Despite having plentiful amounts of fat, the Western diet is lacking in a specific group of fatty acids called omega-3s, touted for their benefits to heart and brain health. Food manufacturers have started fortifying commonly consumed foods, including breads, cereals, and eggs, with these essential fatty acids.

The Benefits of DHA

One crucial fatty acid, is the omega-3 derivative, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The benefits of consuming DHA omega-3 are


  • Enhanced cognitive function and learning ability in children
  • Benefits for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


  • Lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Lessening severity of depression.

The diet of mothers affects the content of DHA in breast milk. Adequate supplies of DHA are required for infant development.

Making up for the Shortfall

Supplementing the diets of food producing livestock with DHA-rich microalgae sources has successfully produced DHA-enriched meat and milk from livestock such as pigs and poultry. Now focus has turned to ruminants and the production of DHA-enriched food.

Cow’s milk is picking up Omega-3s in more ways than one

Milk produced by today’s dairy cattle has less omega-3 fatty acids than in the past when all livestock was pasture based. For this reason, researchers are looking to add the Omega 3s to dairy cattle diets with the intent of raising the proportion of healthy fats in the milk produced.

Studies Are Reporting Significant Results

Studies in 2008 (Boeckaert et al.) and 2012 (Stamy et al.) have examined the effects of feeding algal meal, high in DHA, on feed intake, enteric methane production, and milk parameters.  It has been demonstrated that feeding algal meal may inhibit voluntary dry matter intake and reduce milk fat concentrations (Moate et al., 2013).

Results from a Trial Study in Italy

In a recent trial in Italy, researchers examined the effects of feeding algal meal (Algae STM) on milk production and milk composition of lactating dairy cows. Maurice Boland (Alltech) reports as follows:

“The study was carried out with 36 Italian Friesian dairy cows in their average-late stage of lactation. Cows were allocated into two homogenous groups of 18 animals each, where the treated group received the supplementation (6 g/kg DMI) of the test product for 84 consecutive days mixed into one component of the TMR (corn meal), while the control group had received the same amount of corn meal without a test product.

The results of the study showed that the treatment with algal meal did not change the body condition scores and live weight tended to be a little higher for those cows. . Specifically “Milk protein content and production, lactose content and production, urea and somatic cell count were unaffected. The algal meal (Algae STM) significantly affected the milk fatty acid profile, increasing milk DHA (% of FA) from 0 to 0.37%. The researchers concluded that algal meal fed in a TMR to dairy cows enriched milk with beneficial DHA and increased conjugated linoleic acid. Milk yield increased; while milk fat and fat production declined without significant change in four percent fat corrected milk.”

DHA inclusion in the diet could also increase reproductive efficiency in the herd.

Another happily anticipated side effect is that, in addition to the benefits for animal and human health, DHA could help bovine reproduction. Maurice P. Boland is the research director for Alltech. He reports that current studies using DHA in lactating cows are aimed at enhancing the quality of the uterine epithelium that could modify and attenuate the release of prostaglandin F-2a. This could ensure a higher pregnancy rate because of the better maternal recognition of pregnancy and the subsequent maintenance of pregnancy.  The implications are huge for the dairy industry. Better reproduction starts the process off better, and laboratory studies are confirming that there could also be benefits in the post-pregnancy health of dairy cattle that receive DHA.

DHA Improves Immune Function of Dairy Cattle

After dairy cows deliver their calves, several immune functions — such as white blood cell proliferation and production of disease-fighting antibodies — are depressed. Recognizing this, the development of new feeding strategies in which the fatty acid composition of the diet is manipulated in order to prevent immune suppression after calving should contribute to decreased infection and disease in dairy cows. Preliminary results in the laboratory indicate that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) can reduce immune stress as shown by decreased TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-a) production in cultured blood cells from cows.

If these results can be repeated in the field, then strategic supplementation of early-lactation dairy cows with selected omega-3 PUFA may lead to improved health and reproductive efficiency. Such improvements could represent an annual savings of over $2 billion dollars through improved reproductive efficiency and reduced veterinary costs for treatment of postpartum metabolic disorders. These savings would undoubtedly improve the sustainability and profitability of U.S. dairy operations.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

One hundred years ago adding Vitamin D to milk had a profound impact on human nutrition. Modern dairy research is taking strides in further increasing the nutritional value of milk. As that process builds, much is being learned about making a positive contribution to the health, reproduction and performance of dairy cattle. It’s a winning formula that starts at the farm feed bunk and continues to enhance nutrition beyond the kitchen table.



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Categories : Nutrition

Sometimes it is challenging to be a dairy farmer.  When it comes to producing high quality dairy feed, the results can be affected by everything from weather, to timing, to handling and storage. One seemingly small misstep can turn a perfectly good crop into something you can’t or shouldn’t put in front of your cows. Which brings us to silage inoculants and how they may be used to maintain and improve feed.

To Inoculate or Not to Inoculate? That is the Question.

First off let’s remember that feed accounts for 55-60% of the cost of running a dairy operation.  Providing high quality feed is crucial for success. Today your strategy must go beyond deciding “if” you should use an inoculant or whether you should only use it only on certain forages. Advisors are clear. “A quality silage inoculant should be used on all ensiled feeds.” A quality silage inoculant will quickly guide the fermentation process towards the production of lactic acid to drop the pH of the forage.  A quality silage inoculant will also provide some measure of insurance against sub-optimal harvesting, chopping, filling, packing, and covering conditions.  An inoculant will not make bad forage good, but it will maintain the quality of the forage better than uninoculated silage.  Forage is the foundation of a dairy cow’s diet. Better quality forage will allow animals to perform better. Better quality silage will prevent loss of silage due to shrinking. Don’t throw 4% of your biggest expense away. It also will help you secure that your storage inventory will last you until the next harvest.  Better quality silage means less need to purchase high energy, and high protein feeds. Thus, the short answer is “yes” to inoculants, in order to get improved performance at a lower cost.

Taking the Fear out of Fermentation

“Fear” may seem like an extreme choice of words because after all fermentation is simply the process where bacteria use sugars to form organic acids that lower pH and preserve the forage. Simple yes.  But it’s a precarious balancing act that has water, time, oxygen and other variables working to upset the feed cart. Getting the crop harvested and ensiled at its highest nutrient level is step one. It’s at this point that all oxygen must be eliminated so that the bacteria can get to work. Any slip ups here and there will be nutrient and dry matter losses. The fact that the silage is out of sight means it could easily slip off your radar. Meanwhile, there are micro-organisms .. both good and bad … and what you want is to have sufficiently large quantities of the right bacteria dominating  the fermentation. That’s where a silage inoculant can be a useful tool.

The Next Important Question. “Which Inoculant to choose?”

First of all you have to establish what you need?  When you have decided whether you need a fermentation aid or a spoilage inhibitor, then you must make sure your choice is one that is backed by research. There are significant genetic differences between LAB (lactic acid bacteria) species and strains.  It is difficult to compare products because not all products are equally effective. Your provider should be able to support claims of reduced dry matter losses or improved feed efficiency.  You must pick based on the type of silage (corn silage vs. haylage). Not all inoculants are created equal.  Seek out the answers to your quality control questions.

Okay, But Will It Actually Work?

All is lost if you use an inoculant that doesn’t work.  You must make sure that you have the right bacteria that will grow rapidly in the pH range of the forage they are growing in and produce lactic acid. Here is the point where understanding silage inoculants becomes a science lesson. If this isn’t an area you readily understand, it might be best to seek out he assistance of a specialist, nutritionist or feed consultant.  At the most basic level, you want the bacteria to be live and vigorous and the count of the bacteria (CFU) to be at least 100,000 CFU/g.

Population of Lactic Acid Bacteria Applied to the Forage

The population of LAB applied should be at least 10% greater than the natural bacteria that are on the forage. Most inoculants are applied at a rate of 100,000 cells per g (CFU/g) of silage, but applying L. buchneri at 400,000 to 600,000 CFU/g may further improve its efficacy provided it is addressing the problem in your silage. Inoculation at rates that are even just 1% less than natural populations can result in these additives having little impact on silage quality (Muck 1989). Consequently, proper application rates are critical to deriving value from inoculants.

Nature of the Forage Being Ensiled

The forage should have sufficient substrates (e.g. water soluble carbohydrates) and optimum moisture for fermentation (Muck 1989). Consequently, stage of growth of forage at the time of ensiling impacts the value of inoculants.

Are Enzymes Value Added?

In an effort to make more plant sugars available to the bacteria, enzymes can be added to a quality inoculant and is particularly helpful if the plant sugar content of the silage is low. Adding enzymes that work is more costly but can increase dry matter recovery and dry matter digestibility. This is a case where you have to trust that “you get what you pay for.”

Doing your homework and getting advice from knowledgeable feed consultants will certainly help with informed decision making in this area. 

Good Inoculants Have Good Data or “Buyer Beware.”

Another key is to make sure the inoculant you are going to use has good research documenting its’ efficacy. Multiple university research trails over different years and growing conditions on the forage type you are inoculating is highly desirable. Research should support the efficacy of the product at the application rate it is being sold at and should validate any and all claims made for the product.  Be very cautious VOUR using only “testimonials.”

Don’t buy an inoculant only on price. Often, you get what you pay for. Quality bacteria and enzymes cost more money to manufacture than cheap bacterial. You are better off not spending any money on an inoculant than spending a small amount of money on an unproven or low-quality inoculant.  Find the inoculants that all have the technology and research you want and then look at the price.

The Economics of Silage Inoculants from Feed Bunk to the Bank

You are ready to accept that silage inoculants are insurance but are they an investment that either saves the silage of increases profit or both. Results of many research studies show that inoculants improve DM intake and milk production by 4 to 5% for grass, corn and alfalfa silages. Assuming that inoculants improved DM recovery by 1.25 to 2.5% and milk production by 0.1 L per cow per day, net returns were estimated at $5.76 and $14.40 per tonne of corn and alfalfa silage, respectively. (Bolsen et al.)

Worth the Money or Not?

Will you get your money back from using inoculants? It is hard to see subtle changes in animal performance.  Measuring reduced dry matter losses or silage shrink.  If the bottom line shows improved production is it due to the inoculants or should some other management factor get the credit. Fortunately, university research is providing data showing the successes of inoculant products.

The cost of silage additives can range from 25 cents a treated ton to almost $2 per treated ton. Paying 30 cents a ton on a product that does nothing to improve fermentation is a bigger waste of money than spending 30 cents too much on a product that does improve the value of your feed.  Evaluate additives to be sure the product can lower pH and preserve the silage.

Where Does that Leave Your Inoculant Knowledge?

To make good quality silage, one must have an appreciation of the plant and microbial and environmental factors that influence silage fermentation, all of which ultimately dictate the nutrient value and quality of silage.

Advancements in inoculant science have produced inoculants that can improve the aerobic stability of silage and in the case of 3rd-generation inoculants, even the digestibility of fibre. Fourth-generation inoculants are presently under development with a focus on delivering silage with probiotic properties that could deliver health benefits to the animal.

All of the preceding factors must be considered as an integrated package. Neglect of any one component can lead to a breakdown in the forage preservation process. Silage inoculants can facilitate the ensiling process, but they are not a replacement for paying attention to the fundamental factors that are the keys to making good quality silage.

Proper Application Is Key

Make sure that you have the ability and knowledge to properly apply silage inoculants according to manufacturer’s recommendations combined with sound ensiling best practices. Remember the application of a silage inoculant will not overcome the effects of poor silage management or poor weather conditions.  Three important keys to good silage fermentation are harvesting at the correct moisture and chop length, quick and adequate packing, and sealing immediately after filling.  If all of these are well handled, commercial inoculants can be a valuable tool in silage systems.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The ecology of ensiling is exceedingly complicated, however, since forages represent a large proportion of the feed costs of dairy production, the generation of high-quality silage is especially important in achieving profitability. At the end of the day, properly selected, applied and managed silage inoculants can make three significant contributions:  insurance for obtaining quality forage, an intervention to prevent negative organisms in harvested forage and an investment to increase DM intake and milk production.




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Dairy Nutrition. The K.I.S.S. of Wealth!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Thinking of our personal health and hearing the term ‘nutrition’, you might be motivated to eat more vegetables.  That’s simple and we all like the K.I.S.S. (keep it sweet and simple) principle.

Dairy Breeding is Simple Too

All you have to do is pick the right dairy breed, the right dairy genetics and, at least occasionally, manage to have Mother Nature and the marketplace somewhat on your side and it follows that you will produce buckets of milk and be the proud owner of a sustainable dairy business.  And that’s exactly why we more often face the O.U.C.H. syndrome – Overworked Underproducing Cattle Herds. Why is it that, with all the technology, science and passion at our fingertips, we are missing something?
nutrition consultant scott b

They Are What They Eat!

Cows eat every day.  Cows are milked every day.  It would seem to follow that those simple, daily actions could be the key to simplifying our dairy success.  Perhaps dairy breeders are missing opportunities and should seek expert help from nutrition consultants. After all, meeting production, herd health and economic goals directly affects the profitability of every dairy herd. The tricky part is that every dairy operation has unique issues that must be considered as part of the nutrition solution.

Why Bother With a Nutrition Consultant?

Scott B_ppAn effective nutrition consultant will investigate and analyze all the issues impacting your cows and thus impacting your success.  The Bullvine went to Dr. Scott Bascom to get some insight on the value of working with a nutrition consultant.  Dr. Bascom is the Director of Technical Services at Agri-Nutrition Consulting, Inc. (ANC) (Read more articles about animal nutrition by Dr. Bascom). He confirms “nutrition consultants can design a customized feeding program to meet their client’s specific goals and make the best use of the resources they have on the farm, and are skilled at feeding cows, heifers, and dry cows in a manner that will keep them healthy and highly productive.”  However his years of experience starting at college have given him a wider viewpoint.   While in college he attended a lecture given by Dr. Paul Chandler.   Chandler shared,  “There are many reasons beyond economics that a nutritional consultant provides value.” He feels that one of the best resources that a good nutrition consultant can develop is in maximizing the human side. “You have days when you are also a financial advisor, psychologist, marriage counselor and a loyal friend.” He continues, “At the time I didn’t comprehend what Dr. Chandler meant but now I recognize that he was telling us we would have to go beyond our skill in nutrition to develop a high level of trust with our clients if we were going to be successful.”

Not Just a Quick Fix. And BORING is good too!

The very nature of dairy breeding has conditioned breeders to the fact that any process we implement or change we make must be undertaken not as a short term fix but with a view to profitability for many years to come.  Changes are both feared and welcomed. Feared because they’re never easy.  Welcomed because of the potential for improvement. Dr. Bascom has a somewhat unconventional view of change as it relates to nutrition. “With my clients I am striving for BORING.  I want a boring ration that never changes because we feed the same thing all the time.  I want cows that are BORING because they are healthy, comfortable and get bred in a timely fashion. I want my herd visits to be BORING because we have no major issue to consider. My point is the goal is to get our clients to a place where we are meeting our goals and rarely need to make any big changes.  At this point we make very minor adjustments when we need to make a change.  The cows are happy, the producer is happy, and I am happy.”

From the Bunker to the Bank!

We spend research dollars to identify a cow’s genes to the smallest snippet.  We spend millions of dollars on the cow with the best dairy conformation. But we can’t agree on what to feed her at the bunker. Dr. Bascom feels that dairy nutrition is economically imperative. “The producer that isn’t working with a nutritionist has a lot as risk financially.  The value of feed fed to a lactating cow can be $8 or more per day. For a 100 cow herd the value of feed fed in a year is well over $250,000!  With feed costs so high, optimizing income over feed cost becomes critical. He backs up the statistics with personal experience. “When ANC picks up a new client that was not using a nutritional consultant prior to me, it is not unusual for us to increase income over feed cost by $0.25/cow/day. This adds up to a significant increased annual income.”

Keep Your Money Growing Just for You

“Another significant reason to work with a nutritional consultant is that they can bring new ideas to the farm.  Consultants are exposed to a diverse range of information including what we learn from other clients, trade shows, continuing education, and other people in our support network.  Part of our job as an advisor is to filter through all this information and bring back to our clients what is most applicable to their situation?”

How to Increase Milk Production

As I write this, I begin to see that the practice of nutrition is like the practice of medicine.  Being blessed with both an animal nutritionist and a medical doctor in the family, it is increasingly clear to me that the really good practitioners in either field are the ones who not only understand the science but can put it into practice.  Dr. Bascom readily is a storehouse of working examples derived from dairy nutrition consulting. “Let’s talk about increasing income over feed cost. Often this includes increasing milk production.   However, too often we can fall into the trap of pushing for higher milk production in a way that isn’t profitable. When we decide that higher milk production is the key to increasing income over feed cost then we look at forage quality, cow comfort, facilities, and a variety of management factors to decide how to reach this goal.   The answer is different on every farm.    For example if I have a client that has average days in milk of 250 days then we are not going to increase milk production until we improve reproduction.  On the other hand, a client that is overstocking their facilities might experience an immediate increase in milk per cow and total milk shipped by culling out some of their bottom end cows thus improving cow comfort for the rest of the herd.”

What Does Quality Cost?

In polling dairy breeders who do not use consultants, the number one reason given is that either the consultant or the feed program will be too expensive.  Dr. Bascom appreciates the opportunity to answer this concern. “Again, we start by talking about income over feed cost!  Sometimes decreasing out –of-pocket costs drops income over feed cost! The answer to this question is to look for ways to make the best use of the resources available on the farm.   We ask questions like, are we getting the most value out of the forages we are feeding? Are we feeding commodities that are competitively priced? Are we wasting feed?” Too often we measure financial success by decreased input dollars.  Sometimes we have to spend a little to make more.  A key learning to internalize is that you can waste money just as easily on excessive quality as you can on deficient quality.  Optimum quality is the goal.

Let’s Ruminate on Components!

“In most cases increasing components will increase income over feed cost.  The exception would be in markets that don’t pay premiums for high component milk. Low components could be an indication of cow health issues.   So fat and protein tests are something I watch closely.

The first step in high component milk is about feeding a healthy rumen. Forage quality is paramount.   We need high quality forages to optimize rumen health. So the first step is to make sure forage quality is optimum.  We also balance carbohydrates and degradable protein to encourage rumen health. The rumen bugs produce very high quality protein that drives both milk yield and components. After we have designed a diet for optimum rumen health and to maximize the production of high quality protein by the rumen then we look at additives. These would include bypass protein sources and rumen protected amino acids.”

Beyond the Basics to Practical and Personal

One of the most rewarding aspects of being connected to the dairy industry is hearing stories such as the ones Dr. Bascom shared with us.  “Years ago I worked with a dairyman in the southeastern part of the US that told me I got more milk for him than anyone else. I was only able to get his cows to 50 lbs. of milk but he was close to 30 when we started. This won’t get me on the cover of a major dairy magazine but to him it was a really big deal.”  Of course there are times ANC’s client’s success has meant rising to a challenge. “One of my ANC clients challenged me to feed as much forage as we could feed to his cows and maintain healthy cows, production at 75 lbs. of milk, and high components.    We were able to get the diet up to 82% forage as a percent of dry matter.   We maintained milk at 75 lbs., fat test over 4.0%, protein at 3.3%, cut purchased feed costs, cow health improved, and reproductive performance improved.  I didn’t think we could take the forage to this level without losing milk!”  Every client has different goals, says Bascom. “Several years ago I started working with a new client that markets embryos.   The goals were to maintain fat test at 4.0%, protein at 3.4%, and cut purchased feed cost. We made adjustments to the diet to feed more of their homegrown forages to cut purchased feed cost. We also added a liquid feed to the ration and made some adjustments in how the TMR was mixed.  Not only did we save money but the cows came up in both protein and fat test. This put more money in the milk check and also made more cows in the herd eligible for the foreign embryo market.”

ROF is Good. Return on Relationship (ROR) is Great.

It doesn’t matter what facet of the dairy industry you work in, you’re going to find passionate people.  Dr. Bascom is one of them. “I love cows,” says this ANC consultant and adds, “Following a career in nutrition allows me to be around cows and people who love cows.”  And that is a key motivator for him. “The cow success stories are rewarding but perhaps the most rewarding experiences are the people success stories. I have celebrated weddings and the birth of children with my clients. I have watched their children grow-up and find their way into the dairy operation. I have cried tears at the loss of their loved ones. These experiences are just as rewarding as celebrating high rolling herd averages, the sale of bulls into AI, All-American nominations, and high classification scores. This is very much a people business and it is so rewarding to gain the trust of my clients in a way that they want to share good times and the hard times in life with me.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We can all identify with the passion that makes a career in dairying the focus of our daily lives.  However, we can’t let rose colored glasses cause us to limit our dairy herd success.  Dairy nutrition consultants help us to investigate and discover ways to overcome unnecessary or unseen obstacles.  So that leaves the Simple Question: “Why bother with nutrition consultants?”  And leads to the Simple Answer:  “You can’t afford not to.”

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